Des: Pressure told in the end
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler was shattered, but nonetheless proud of his team's efforts throughout a torrid season, following their 30-6 grand final loss to the Rabbitohs in front of a record crowd at ANZ Stadium.
While they clawed their way back into the game at 6-all after 50 minutes of play, the Rabbitohs ran away with it the final seven minutes, recording three tries for a blowout 24-point margin of victory.
When all was said and done, Hasler directed praise at the opposition for the way they dominated late in the game.
"I'll start off by saying congratulations to South Sydney. They played better than us tonight," Hasler told media following the game.
"At the same time I'm very proud of what this playing group did this year. Probably now's not the time to dissect the game too much but probably the start of both halves, we were untidy. I think we brought a lot of pressure upon ourselves... but that's finals football isn't it, really?
"By bringing that much pressure onto yourself and giving a side like Souths easy field position [it] eventually takes its toll. I thought we did well, we done okay to get back into it – but just the weight of possession. They were just too good for us in the end."
Stand-in co-captain James Graham concurred with his mentor.
"The scoreline probably reflects [they were better than us]," Graham said. "I think we were willing to be desperate but we probably became desperate at the wrong end of the game really."
With the Bulldogs' coach accustomed to having regular captain Michael Ennis by his side, Hasler didn't deny the regular captain's absence due to a fractured foot hurt the team's chances.
However, he was complimentary of the input from 21-year-old back-up Moses Mbye.
"Look, Michael's experience was missed [in terms of] the combination that you build throughout the year," Hasler said.
"There were a couple of times we were sloppy in our sets. But I have to say, I thought Moses Mbye didn't let himself down – he was tremendous. He put forward a real gusty display and he has a huge future in front of him."
Having come from seventh spot and survived three sudden-death games against Melbourne, Manly and Penrith to make the grand final, Hasler was ultimately proud of his team's efforts to the final game of the year.
"I'm pretty proud of the boys and the season they had this year," Hasler said.
"We learnt some tough lessons learnt and they say you learn more from losing so we'll take that on board."