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Only in rugby league could a searing opening week of football finals be nearly eclipsed by the fact that the Manly Sea Eagles were suddenly on the verge of self-implodeing.
The Sea Eagles travel to the club’s presentation night at the Star on Monday amid infighting after the club lost the final seven games of the season.
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Manly Sea Eagles politics have run deep ever since the late 1980s and it seems the more things change, the more they stay the same.
It sounds absurd but somehow two-time Premiership winner coach Des Hasler’s future at the club has been thrown into question following the Sea Eagles’ spectacular crash off of the final.
It was the same Des Hasler who steered the club to the top four last year and ended the season being beaten in a preliminary final by South Sydney.
Five-eighth champion Kieran Foran did everything in his power to try to carry the Sea Eagles to a victory in his farewell appearance in the brown and white last Friday night, but the Bulldogs’ left boot five-eighth Matt Burton ruined the party.
There’s clearly a lot going on behind the scenes at the Northern Beaches club with new CEO Tony Mestrov, the man charged with trying to unite the Sea Eagles.
Mestrov will need some luck as the Sea Eagles have gone through a conga line of CEOs over the past 10 years.
Owner Scott Penn is currently back in Australia from New York amid reports that a private consortium has submitted a $20million bid to buy the Manly club.
Although Penn said “Des has a contract as long as he wants” after the Pride Jersey fiasco, Hasler’s immediate future at the club is now somewhat up for debate.
Away from Manly, the first round of the NRL final came at just the right time with absolutely stunning rivalries between the top eight teams remaining in the competition.
It all starts on Friday night when Premiers Penrith play against Sydney’s west rivals Parramatta to kick off the series finale.
The Eels are the only team to beat the Panthers twice this season, with the last game being the game when Nathan Clearly was out for five weeks for his dangerous throw at Parramatta point guard Dylan Brown.
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After finishing in the top four, the test for the Eels now is whether they can produce an 80-minute performance to move within 80 minutes of a big final appearance.
Even though they arrive with momentum after three straight wins, the jury is still out on whether Parramatta can pull it all off on the biggest stage come September.
Then there’s the sudden-death grudge match between the in-form Raiders and the Melbourne Storm on Super Saturday followed by two of the best storylines of the season in the Cronulla Sharks hosting the North Queensland Cowboys.
And to round out the opening weekend of the finals, we get another blockbuster grudge game between foundation club rivals Sydney Roosters and South Sydney at the new Allianz Stadium.
The finals couldn’t have gone better.
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