Paul Kent: Sea Eagles’ double standards
GIVEN an opportunity to begin moving forward, Manly still blew it.
It happened shortly after 4pm on Tuesday. There in the team lists, No 19, Jackson Hastings.
Anybody that knows anything will tell you that Hastings will not play Sunday against the Sydney Roosters.
This, after chief executive Lyall Gorman spoke to coach Trent Barrett Sunday morning and afterwards guaranteed Hastings would be in the 21-man squad named.
The Sea Eagles were good for that, but it seems there are no intentions to play him.
So all it does is prolong the Hastings debate.
Barrett once and for all identified Hastings as a bad fit in February. He called a meeting with Hastings and his manager Sam Ayoub, the Rugby League Players Association and Manly welfare officer Quentin Pongia.
He hoped it would be the last time. It wasn't. Relations failed to improve.
In rugby league terms Hastings, it seems, can't cop the tip.
His behaviour, a delicate mixture of brash ego and short fuse, continually irritates teammates.
His teammates try to accept this tough-talking persona but play alongside him and witness a player who resents contact.
You can't ask for respect and do little to earn it. Players are quick to sniff out a fraud.
So they tried to condition Hastings to their expectations.
Practical jokes often mask a deeper intention. Rarely are they to simply illicit a laugh from teammates.
The motive is often the group's intention to change the individual's behaviour to suit the group. Most players come around.
Hastings failed to come around at Sydney Roosters, where the methods were a little gentler, and has now failed at Manly.
Culture is simply the standards an organisation is willing to accept. Those standards are strengthened through trust and co-operation.
Players need to trust their teammates. They need to know if they miss a tackle a teammate is covering. That if they are injured and unable to perform their job, a teammate stands at his side.
Such trust underpins every successful team. It is not unique to sport.
It is no stronger than in the military, where soldiers depend on other soldiers for their lives.
Consider American army captain, William Swenson, who continually put his life in danger to rescue fellow soldiers caught in an ambush in Afghanistan in 2009.
At one point Capt Swenson puts his sergeant, Kenneth Westbrook, on a rescue helicopter and gently kisses his forehead.
It was a brief show of love in a dusty, terrible war.
Asked why, later, he put his life in danger to rescue his comrades and extract the dead, Capt Swenson's answer was simple: "Because he would have done it for me."
This is the highest bond.
Gorman recently pointed out that if a player cannot adapt to fit the club culture the choice is either to remove the player or overhaul the culture. It is solid logic.
Given that, Hastings needs to move on.
The Sea Eagles have used paperclips and rubber bands to put their team together this week and such is the lack of trust Hastings still won't get a run.
Stunts like naming him only to not play him just prolong the conversation they all claim they wish was over. He is simply a bad fit.
Not that it saves Manly from further pain.
Manly's bigger problem becomes more evident each day. What culture are they driving?
Hastings' isolation all came to light after the Sea Eagles lost to Gold Coast in Gladstone and Barrett told his team to stay in the hotel after the game. Not good enough for some.
Six players snuck out and attended one of the few joints open late on a Sunday in Gladstone, the local strip club called The Boardroom.
The strip club is a leftover from when Gladstone flourished as a mining town. The dollars were a little harder to come by for the local girls when the Sea Eagles rolled into the bar, but they knocked out a few hours.
It all quickly turned south.
Most concerning for Manly was that among the group out disobeying the coach's direct instructions was not Hastings but club captain Daly Cherry-Evans.
That is their culture. The standard they are willing to accept.
And on Tuesday the Sea Eagles trained. And Hastings was not at training.