Until this week, Tom Keneally’s The Utility Player, the definitive biography of Des Hasler, was my favourite book of all time. Candid and well-written, Keneally’s masterpiece tackled the inner workings of my favourite man in rugby league – my idol, my sporting hero. The book sat proudly on my shelf, nestled tightly between Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom and Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; however, the events of the past week or so have forced me to banish it to another shelf in the home library, where it is wedged somewhere in between James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces and Warwick Capper’s Fool Forward.
In The Utility Player, Keneally wrote: ”Des is an Australian version of an Arthurian knight. His heart was strong because his soul was rigorously aligned … he is the Zen practitioner of rugby league, the code’s monk.” Well Tom, with all due respect, it looks as if this King Arthur has decided to stop defending his kingdom and instead to go chasing the modern day Holy Grail, the alluring AU$.
The Manly club is left fighting limbless – ala Monty Python and The Holy Grail’s Black Knight – now Hasler’s attempts to persuade key personnel to defect along with himself have come to fruition. It is a delicious irony, for I can’t help but see the obvious similarities between the Manly board and The Holy Grail’s three headed beast. Too busy bickering amongst each other about what they’d do with Hasler to realise he’d fucked off already.
But the Gosford-born international and dual premiership winning coach is now no longer the man I will pray to come mid March. “Dear Des, give our boys the strength, the fitness, the guidance, the lamb’s blood they need for success this year. Dear Des, I now know why when the Manly boys do their morning run down at the beach that there are only one set of footprints. Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Telstra Premiership Cup we keep…” I guess what I’m trying to say is I had faith; now I’m lost. Richard Dawkins doesn’t cover Des in his acclaimed atheist manifesto, The God Delusion.
Hasler gave his word that he would remain Manly coach for the 2012 season and give 100% to the club until his move in 2013. Bullshit Des, fucking bullshit. You’ve broken Arko’s heart, and mine. I haven’t felt this deflated since the day my old man told me that Terry Hill bashed his wife, Cliffy Lyons was illiterate and Ian Roberts was a bender. Try processing that as a young bloke with posters of all three legends on your bedroom wall.
I’m angry for now, but a part of me deep down knows that Des has done the right thing. It’s a reasonable move in light of the recent infighting, the sacking of Zorba, and the shit-fight to renew his contract. If I had to put up with Choc Watmough’s drivel every day I guess I’d be looking for a new job too. Seriously Choc, shut the fuck up.
So, where to from here? Well hopefully the combined coaching efforts of Toovey, Menzies and Lyons will help keep my passion for the club alive. I’ll keep praying to Des, but now I’ll be praying for the legend to return. Terry Hill stopped beating his wife, Cliffy Lyons did learn to read, and Roberts… well, he is still a bender, but I guess I’m saying I still have faith that one day I’ll be able to dust off The Utility Player and put it back on the top shelf where it belongs.
By Luke Meredith