Hasler desperate to play down Dogs

Des Hasler was doing his best to play down the hype surrounding his top-of-the-table Bulldogs side - to no avail - in the wake of their 38-6 thrashing of the Dragons at ANZ Stadium.

With Manly's loss to Melbourne the previous evening, the Bulldogs' seven-try romp leaves them all on their lonesome at the top of the NRL ladder, with their 7-2 win-loss record now their best start to a season since 2009.

As has been the case with the man synonymous with the phrase 'under the radar', Hasler was quick to talk up the prospects of rival sides rather than those of his own.

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"We can't get ahead of ourselves," said Hasler, after the Dogs' win saw them skip two points clear of the Sea Eagles and Titans.

"There's a lot of good sides two points behind us; they're all coming good. The Roosters are coming good, Souths are coming good, Melbourne are coming good. There's a long way to go yet."

Despite a comfortable win that was established on the back of two tries in the opening 10 minutes and a 22-0 half-time lead, skipper Michael Ennis said the margin at the break was not a true reflection of the intensity of the contest over the opening 40 minutes.

"Sometimes you go into half-time ahead like that but it doesn't feel like it," Ennis said.

"I felt like it was a real end-to-end contest and it was pretty quick out there actually, considering off the back of the rep weekend there was a possibility of starting slow and being a little off the pace, but I thought both sides really competed hard in that first half.

"We were just lucky enough to capitalise on some opportunities and I thought that the 10 minutes to open the second half was probably the most pleasing part of the game."

Citing the looming representative period as a crucial litmus test for the Dogs' premiership credentials, Hasler said he expected to be without NSW incumbents Josh Morris and Josh Reynolds in the coming weeks, while also endorsing halfback Trent Hodkinson as ready for higher honours.

Hodkinson could come into contention for the NSW No.7 jumper after Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce was arrested at the weekend and faces investigation by the NRL's Integrity Unit over an alleged incident in King's Cross.

"He's a particular type of half, 'Hokko' –he's just got that cool head and that ability to steer sides around," said Hasler, who also said he didn't think the halfback would face any action from the match review committee for being placed on report for a chicken-wing style tackle on Dragons second-rower Joel Thompson.

"'Hokko's' not inclined to that type of play so I don't think there's any worry there."