Darren ArthurESPN NRL Editor5 Minute Read
This week we take a look at the Gold Coast Titans’ new coach Des Hasler, junior player disappointment at the Bulldogs, and the no-brainer call to have three Women’s State of Origin games.
Read on as we tackle some of the big talking points in this week’s NRL Real or Not.
The Gold Coast party is over
NOT REAL: The Titans have announced that Des Hasler will be their head coach from the beginning of the 2024 season. Hasler who enjoyed coaching success at the Sea Eagles, mixed results at the Bulldogs, before returning to Manly for an ignominious dismissal, has a well-earned reputation for hard work and no nonsense.
The Titans have rightly or wrongly been long seen as a holiday resort for footballers, a place where rugby league pays the bills, without ever being the full focus for those who go there.
Hasler will change all that, instilling discipline, accountability and ensuring that the team is well-prepared and able to make the most of their talents.
Titans chief executive Steve Mitchell believes Hasler could be the final piece needed to turn the Titans into serious premiership contenders.
“We think we need a winner in place and someone who’s got the IP and has been to grand finals,” Mitchell said.
“It’s very unusual to have a coach of Des’ ilk in the market where he’s literally not employed. Sometimes timing is everything.”
Hasler, who will be reunited with former Sea Eagles and Bulldogs star Kieran Foran at the Titans, is keen to take on the challenge.
“I’m looking forward to joining the Titans and to the 2024 season,” Hasler said.
“The club has a strong playing roster, the region is blessed with emerging talent and the organisation is firmly embedded in the community.
“I’m confident we can deliver success to the region in the coming seasons.”
It is all smooth sailing at the Bulldogs
NOT REAL: Not a lot has gone right for the Bulldogs over the past couple of years. There have been some big-name signings, several coaches have come and gone, and a lot of hope was invested in the arrival of the coaching messiah Cameron Ciraldo.
Since Ciraldo took over the reigns at the beginning of this season, the Bulldogs have shown very little sign of improvement, and of late have plummeted back to their darkest days of aimless attack and heartless defence. Fans are frustrated by Ciraldo’s reluctance to drop players who are obviously struggling to compete at the NRL level.
Now to top it off, the Bulldogs have announced that locally-bred favourite Jake Averillo has signed with the Dolphins, after the club told him to look elsewhere. Averillo has been one of the few players capable of holding his head high every week. Over several years and various coaches, he has been tried in just about every backline position, without ever really nailing one down. Many fans believe he is a much better fullback than the player Ciraldo insists on throwing the No. 1 jersey to every week, Hayze Perham.
Still, with Stephen Crichton and Bronson Xerri on their way to the Bulldogs next year, someone had to go. General manager of football Phil Gould was left to explain.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for Jake,” Gould said.
“He’s a local junior who has done a wonderful job for the club and we wish him and his family all the best for the future.”
In response to fan backlash on Twitter, Gould tweeted:
“I can certainly understand some fans feeling that way. Totally understandable. We love Jake and we would have loved to keep him at the Bulldogs. However, with our salary cap and roster management, we have priorities in other areas at this particular point in time. Sometimes these tough decisions have to be made in the best long term interests of the club. This is always uppermost in our minds. It’s sad to lose players, but Jake has acquired a great deal at the Dolphins which gives him a great start in life. I’m happy for Jake.”
The fans just want to see the results to justify these tough decisions.
The women need to play three Origins as well
REAL: New South Wales were gallant victors in Townsville, taking out game two of the Women’s State of Origin series 18-14. Unfortunately they failed to wrestle the trophy from the Maroons, as the title was decided on aggregate points, after both teams won a game each. With Queensland winning game one by eight points, New South Wales had to win game two by at least nine points. It sounds even crazier if you say it out loud.
This is the first year that the Women’s State of Origin has been a series and not just a one-off contest. It defies belief that they decided to have two games instead of three.
“We’re both really confused on how to feel at the moment to be honest,” said NSW coach Kylie Hilder .
“Yeah, we’ve just won a game of Origin in Queensland, which is a massive feat, and it was such a battle in such a great game, but you feel still so defeated because we’ve lost a two game series by four points.
Maroons coach Tahnee Norris had similar emotions and called for sanity to prevail.
“It’s a weird feeling at the moment,” Norris said.
“To go to three games now – we’re putting our hands up for it and going ‘please, please, please, can we play these three games. We definitely deserve it.”
“It would have been fantastic to now go into a third game and play it out as well.”
The 18,275 fans at Queensland Country Bank Stadium are a fair indication that there is a growing audience. The quality of football is constantly improving, the passion, commitment and brutality is already truly worthy of the State of Origin brand. Give us more!