The silver lining to Manly’s early exit
DES Hasler can't see the silver lining right now through the fury of Manly's finals exit, but he knows the Sea Eagles have taken giant steps forward in 2019.
Among the leading contenders for the wooden spoon in March, Manly were crushed on Friday night when they bowed out of the finals in the second week.
Manly were arguably the better team against South Sydney, but their disappointment perhaps highlighted more than anything how far they have come in Hasler's return year.
More than half of his side have the best years of their career ahead, with all but seven of the 29 players used this season aged 25 or under.
Manly will also have one of the most stable rosters headed into next season, with Apisai Koroisau the only scheduled departure and only Joel Thompson and Dylan Walker still off contract.
Jack Gosiewski and Corey Waddell were particularly impressive filling in for second-rowers Curtis Sironen and Thompson late in the season, while Reuben Garrick was a find on the wing.
"It gives the club a lot of confidence," Hasler said.
"Particularly with the way some of the young players have come in and handled themselves. It speaks of a bright future.
"But it doesn't help the feeling now, that we could have been headed down the M5 to Canberra (to face the Raiders in the preliminary final)."
Hasler fumed after Jake Trbojevic was sin-binned late in the 34-26 loss to Souths on Friday, as the Rabbitohs ran in two tries in his absence.
But it should be noted that Manly achieved what they did in 2019 with his brother Tom Trbojevic playing just 12 games as he battled hamstring and pectoral injuries.
Forward Addin Fonua-Blake also cemented himself as one of the best props in the game, and centre Brad Parker and hooker Manase Fainu were among those who had career-best years.
Moses Suli also began to deliver on the potential that once earned him a $1.3 million deal at the Wests Tigers as a rookie.
The 21-year-old starred in the finals with his fend now a serious asset in his game, as well as his significant leg speed off the long run.
"Moses unlocked himself," Hasler said.
"For all those reasons and more, the future of the club is pretty bright.
"It's just a shame there has to be this controversy around the result."
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