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Des's Dogs are genuine contenders

Man with the plan: Des Hasler is a master of flying under the radar and his Bulldogs could surprise everyone this season. Credit: Grant Trouville. Copyright: NRL Photos.
1) Should the Bulldogs be the premiership favourites?

No… but I bet coach Des Hasler couldn't care one bit what I think nor what the betting markets say.

The king of "flying under the radar" will know there is a long way to go in this title race, and a long way to go in terms of room for improvement with his team.

However winning six in a row in such a tight competition is quite an achievement.

They demoralised the Dragons physically and on the scoreboard last Sunday, after a month of four tight victories with a combined winning margin of just seven points.

Sunday's game in Hamilton is massive having already played one nail-biter against the Warriors this season.

I couldn't think of a better clash to promote the code in a rugby union stronghold. I can't wait to get there to call the action, with Sky Sport TV in New Zealand anticipating this could be the most watched game from either code so far in 2014. 

And Channel Nine will have coverage for Australian viewers from 4pm Sunday.

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2) Was Mitchell Pearce's penalty appropriate?

In my opinion, no.

As a matter of fact it left more questions than provide closure on an incident that seemed to be blown out of proportion.

A $20,000 fine is a big 'whack' in anyone's language. Throw in a one game ban as well, and unless I have missed something, I believe it is too harsh.

But the hypothetical question is would we see the same penalty if the incident happened this weekend? Would the status of the match Pearce could have been likely to miss be taken into account, and in that case would the punishment have been taken entirely out of the Roosters' hands?

Where is the 'line' that marks where a game sidelined equates to the amount of a fine?

And is the past seven days to be the penalty scale for the future?

Pearce's indiscretion equalled a one-match suspension and a $20K fine. A sex tape scandal equals $5,000. A comment described as a homophobic slur equals a two-game suspension. And an inappropriate word written on a wristband also equals a two-game ban.

To quote Vinnie Barbarino from Welcome Back Kotter, "I'm so confused".

3) Where should Jarryd Hayne play for NSW?

Fullback. 

Not wing. Not centre. But in the No.1 jumper.

This is his time to come to the fore at state level in the position he has starred for the majority of his career.

Monday night for the Eels was another indication of Hayne in supreme form, oozing with confidence, and enjoying his football with a team vastly improved.

He is the most experienced Origin player currently in the Blues ranks.

It's simple. In the form he is in, play him where he is going to get his hands on the ball most.

4) How good was Konrad Hurrell's game against Canberra?

Scary good!

What a performance from a player who threatens to lose the tag "enigmatic" sooner rather than later.

There is not another outside back in the competition like him. His explosive power is different to someone like Greg Inglis who is all athlete – balance and power. 

Hurrell is just a wrecking ball.

Against the Raiders the player I keep reminding people is only in his 4th year of league, had 12 runs for 222 metres. Hurrell made three line breaks, 14 tackle busts, scored a try and had one try assist.

And before last Saturday's game, I don't think fans realised he was so quick.

In a lovely touch, the clash was the first time his mother had ever seen him play live in the NRL.

Konrad's effort and an emphatic Warriors win made for a happy Mothers Day weekend.

5) Should the Dragons play Benji Marshall this weekend?

Absolutely.

I know he only started training with the team on Tuesday, but delaying his debut a few weeks is a luxury the Dragons can't afford after just one win in their last six games.

No matter when he plays, Benji is going to be under pressure. The Dragons are under pressure. There is not much he can do for them from the grandstand or even the reserves bench.

6) How do we gauge the greatness of Reg Gasnier?

Statistics alone stamp Gasnier as something very special. 127 tries in 125 games for St George. 28 tries in 39 tests for Australia. 17 tries in 21 games for New South Wales. These are incredible numbers.

But I think for those of us who weren't around for his playing career, we realise his greatness by the virtually unequalled regard he was held by other champions of the sport.

Whilst I never saw Reg play live, I was fortunate enough to meet and interview this immortal of the game. 

And let me say Reg Gasnier was as much a champion off the field as he was on.

He had the respect of everyone in rugby league past and present.

Reg Gasnier, rest in peace.

And never will you be forgotten.

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NRL State of Mind. What's your state of mind. #NRLStateOfMind. nrl.com/stateofmind