AAP Rugby

Stuart praises Hasler ahead of NRL clash

By AAP Newswire

Canberra coach Ricky Stuart insists he isn't playing "mind games" when praising his Manly counterpart Des Hasler ahead of their top-four NRL showdown on Sunday.

The coaching rivals are famous for wearing their hearts on their sleeves and both have produced underdog stories at their clubs this season.

Neither team was expected to play finals this season but the sides have proved the critics wrong thanks to a buy-in culture.

The Raiders have won five of their past six games to sit third, while the Sea Eagles are hot on their heels in fourth after winning four of their past five.

Stuart is on the cusp of signing a contract extension on the back of his success this season, and the veteran coach admitted he saw plenty of himself in Hasler.

"Des has done a wonderful job with Manly this year and that's not just talking it up in the media for the sake of playing mind games," Stuart said.

"When he took over he had a big job on his hands and he's done extremely well. He's pretty similar to myself, Des. He's very very passionate about Manly.

"He's a Manly old boy player and I know he has the club at heart and he seems to have the boys playing for him at the moment."

But Stuart emphasised coaching ability mattered for little without talented players and said Manly had an abundance.

"It doesn't matter how you coach or how good a coach you think you are, you need great players and he has got some wonderful talent there," Stuart said.

"Those two Trbojevic brothers are wonderful players, you've got a very aggressive front row, you've got a good forward pack and a wonderful half in Daley Cherry-Evans.

"They've been a massive part of their momentum this season and on the back of Des' experience in coaching, that's their strength and it's going to be a really tough game, another semi-final type of intensity match.

"It will be a good education for a young group players I've got here who are trying to stay consistent."

STATS THAT MATTER

- Four of the past five games between the sides have been decided by four points or less, two in golden point, and Manly won four of them.

- Canberra has the best and Manly have the equal second-best goal line defence in the competition.

- Manly have won seven of their past nine games, while Canberra has won eight of their past 10.