Hasler's forward thinking a winner: Brandy
Jack Gibson revolutionised rugby league coaching in the 1960s and 1970s. Warren Ryan then took it another level in the '80s before Phil Gould raised the bar again a decade later.
Coaching trends come and go but I cannot help but think Des Hasler is inventing the game's blueprint for the current period. I think Hasler's coaching structure at Belmore will be lifted and copied by most teams.
Hasler has added another dimension to the coaching scene. The short passing game of the Bulldogs forwards is highly effective.
Look, it's not rocket science but it shows the way the game is going. Canterbury's forwards love those short balls that drag in defences and create holes on the edges. The simplicity of it is what makes it so beautiful.
It’s not as if the Dogs have a pack which is more skillful than others in the comp - they just made the off-season count. Not only does the ploy break open defensive lines, but it also keeps the numbers down in the tackle. The flow on from this is quick play-the-balls. It’s no fluke the Dogs have scored more long-range tries than any other team, most initiated by the forwards.
Even though they didn’t use their passing game as often on Monday night against the Roosters, coach Brian Smith conceded the Bulldogs play differently to every other team in the Telstra Premiership.
Forwards ripping the ball up one-out will always have a role in the game but the Bulldogs forwards are showing such wonderful variation. I thought Gold Coast on Saturday night against Newcastle started to use a similar passing game to Canterbury.
Titans coach John Cartwright has obviously been watching the Canterbury pack very closely, and the tip-ons were noticeable and effective. His style has been employed in the past but not used with such regularity or so systematically. Canterbury now have that ability to break up defences without having to constantly use their playmakers.
The Bulldogs' halves aren't under as much pressure. Hasler is coaching the players - and it’s not just the playmakers that are part of the game plan. They are thriving on that.
Canterbury players look excited to me about their new structure and role. The forwards are looking like footballers - not just battering rams. Hasler has done wonders already at Belmore.
Sam Kasiano is a monster who was virtually unstoppable again on Monday evening. He could easily develop into one of the elite front-rowers of our competition. He is 133kg of raw power.
The Dogs pack is aggressive yet clever and Ben Barba from the back is sensational. He’s quickly realized that supporting his forwards will result in plenty of four-pointers.
The variation of the forward play where Barba sweeps around the back also keeps him in the game and produced their opening try against the Roosters.
Barba seems to have really improved all aspects of his play this year. He pulled off two try-saving tackles on Monday night in a matter of minutes and looks much more confident under the high ball.
We all must remember that this isn't the team Hasler built. He inherited it. Once Hasler moulds and purchases the team he wants and puts into place all his structure, I think premiership glory could be around the corner.
It may not be this year, but I do think Canterbury - with their new style - will be playing semi-final football in 2012.
Hasler signed a four year deal at Canterbury and you just get the feeling that at some stage between now and the end of 2015, Canterbury will have their first title since 2004.
NEWCASTLE sunk to an all-time low on Saturday. They were absolutely terrible against Gold Coast - Wayne Bennett even admitting he was embarrassed with his side's performance.
This is harsh but I thought they looked like a park side. The Knights seem completely devoid of ideas with the ball in their hands. Even with Kurt Gidley you'd think Newcastle would struggle to make the finals. Without Gidley, they are 1000/1.
Things aren't great when the only forward ripping in is Willie Mason, a 33-year-old bought by the club mid-season from European rugby union. I called the Knights-Titans match last Saturday for Fox Sports and have never, ever heard Hunter Stadium so quiet.
There was an eerie silence around the ground, most unusual given it is normally one of the loudest in the premiership. It's as if even the locals cannot believe how ordinary their side has been performing.
There are probably three or four players who seem to have gone backwards in their football this year. That isn't a wrap on the coaching staff. Newcastle play very little second-phase footy and are mind-numbing in possession.
One bookmaker installed the Knights pre-season favourites on the back of the club's aggressive recruitment drive. But I think they are more chance of winning the wooden spoon now than the title.