Hasler on referees, Cowboys watch
Don't be surprised if you see at-times eccentric Bulldogs mentor Des Hasler cross-eyed this weekend when he watches his team run around against the North Queensland Cowboys.
While one eye will be watching the Cowboys following their first win of the season away from home last weekend in Cronulla, his other will be assessing the performance of referees Gerard Sutton and Alan Shortall on Saturday night.
Admitting he has never been a fan of the two-man refereeing system, Hasler had several queries for referees boss Tony Archer following his team's defeat to the Tigers last weekend when his team lost the penalty count and had a mere 38 per cent possession throughout the game.
"I thought the referees were really guilty of refereeing just one side in the ruck ," Hasler said.
"I can cop the mandatory penalties, I can cop the trips, I can cop the head highs but when you don't see infringements going both ways... the refereeing becomes a little bit inadequate so that's what I've alerted dear Tony about."
That said, Hasler didn't heap blame entirely onto the referees following the Bulldogs' 46-18 capitulation to the Tigers, noting that "hopefully it was a one-off".
Looking ahead, he acknowledged the momentous task that the Cowboys present this weekend – and not just because of Johnathan Thurston.
"He is a great player Johnathan... very experienced. He has some really good players playing around him as well though. I have been very impressed with young [Michael] Morgan at the back and [Robert] Lui goes very much unnoticed so it is important that we recognised that we're playing a very good team," Hasler said.
Hasler's mindfulness of the hazards of playing a confident Cowboys outfit is clearly having a flow-on effect within the club, with Bulldogs halfback Trent Hodkinson agreeing with his coach's wariness.
"The Cowboys' confidence coming out of that game [against the Sharks] will be up there and you can never take them too lightly anyway so we're going to have to do our homework," Hodkinson said.
"They are a team that can put some points on you when they are so hopefully for us they're not too on. We have them at a dangerous time [in the season]."
With Josh Reynolds still another week away from finishing the suspension he chalked up during Origin III, Hodkinson will continue to carry the burden of playmaker duties against Thurston on Saturday night, with a victory all but securing their place in the finals.