Souths are grand final favourites: Hasler
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler was quick to pay tribute to a valiant defensive effort by his side to earn a spot in the 2014 NRL Grand Final, but even quicker to snatch the underdogs tag he has tried to make his own in a coaching career that has now seen him appear in five grand finals in eight years.
"That was a real finals game. We won't be favourites next week!" were Hasler's first words at the press conference after his side's gritty 18-12 preliminary final win over Penrith on Saturday night.
After watching his side's strong defensive showing even with skipper Michael Ennis off injured for the second half and halfback Trent Hodkinson troubled by a knee complaint, Hasler said both teams were courageous.
"[I'm] very proud of the effort and they have a right to be pretty pleased with their effort tonight. To make a grand final is a wonderful achievement for the playing group and for the club," he said.
"To hang in there and for us to get the win was impressive."
Ennis said he was proud of his teammates and what they were able to achieve in his absence from the playing field.
"It was an enormous effort by them, it was huge. Penrith are a good side, very very good side, top-four side and they play a real finals style of football.
"I thought defensively tonight the boys were very good but again, we've come down that tough road – Melbourne in Melbourne, Manly in a dog fight at the footy stadium [Allianz Stadium]... everyone else tipped Penrith to win tonight, no-one thought we could beat them and we did."
With credit paid to his charges, Hasler was quick to turn the focus back to next week's opponents.
"Forty-three years without a grand final, I've got it down pat already mate, Glory Glory to South Sydney!
"It's going to be a really tough game, [Rabbitohs coach] Michael Maguire, you put him under enormous pressure last week, their third preliminary final [in three years], they went out there [Friday night against the Roosters] and were absolutely fantastic, they played great finals footy. I think with both forward packs... I think next week is going to be something special."
Ennis said the Rabbitohs had been extremely dominant in both their finals performances so far.
"I heard them talk about their processes – they know what they're doing, it's going to be a hell of a challenge for us. There's some blokes in some really good form, they've been up there all year, it'll be a massive occasion."