Matt Encarnacion, Western Sydney Correspondent, NRL.com
Canterbury-Bankstown coach Des Hasler has denied opening talks to lure rugby union star Kurtley Beale to Belmore next season, despite a report suggesting otherwise.
Hasler was seen watching Beale's Waratahs take out the Super 15 minor premiership at Allianz Stadium a fortnight ago, prompting speculation that he has held discussions with the Wallabies star about a possible code-switch.
The two-time premiership-winning coach welcomed questions from the media on Thursday morning about his Waratahs appearance, and even joked that the club had signed Beale's teammate Michael Hooper.
"You can't even go to the rugby these days and enjoy a game of rugby, can you? I think they're a wonderful side, the Waratahs. And it's great that Michael Hooper will be joining the Bulldogs this year," he quipped.
But Hasler quickly shot down the notion that the Bulldogs had begun negotiations with Beale, who played rugby league as a schoolboy.
"I haven't spoken to any Waratahs players, full stop. He's a good footballer, full stop," he said.
Pressed on whether anyone else from the club had spoken to Beale, Hasler said with a flat, "No."
What is clear though is that the club is armed with a sizeable war chest after its lucrative four-year deal with Sharks prop Andrew Fifita dramatically fell through back in March.
Since then, current skipper Michael Ennis has announced his decision to leave for the Shire at the end of the season, while the club has handed small deals to up-and-comers Michael Lichaa (Cronulla), Curtis Rona (North Queensland) and Jacob Loko (Parramatta).
"[Ennis has been a] wonderful servant. Also, Mick's at the stage where he's got family and that kind of thing. And obviously longevity. But the main thing is he's not being lost to rugby league," Hasler said.
"[Lichaa is] one that has the potential to kick on. Damien Cook, who's done a good job there filling in... he gets another chance next year, an off-season to develop.
"And one that's probably been a bit disappointed that he got an injury at this stage, I would've liked people to seen a little bit more of Moses Mbye. But because of his toe injury, he hasn't been able to play. But next couple of weeks, you never know."
Bulldogs second-rower Tony Williams played against Beale in the juniors and believed the 25-year-old could handle the jump should he decide to do so.
"He started playing league and he's good at playing league. In the juniors, he played at Souths. If he does make a change, I'm sure he'll do a good job here in league," Williams said.
"In his position, it's similar role here. He's a freak of a player and obviously played at the highest level of rugby and I'm sure he'd do a good job here."