Why Hasler won't take Sea Eagles lightly
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler has gone in to bat for suburban grounds in the NRL, explaining that Brookvale Oval is the reason why he won't take Manly lightly on Friday night.
Hasler said that despite the highly publicised twin losses of star halves pairing Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran, his former club showed in last week's brave victory over Melbourne just how different a proposition they are when playing in their own backyard.
"You play Manly, and then you play Manly at Brookvale – two entirely different outlooks, as the poor old Storm found out last week," he said on Thursday.
"There's always something special about playing at a ground like Brookvale. You can understand the want and the need to save a suburban ground like Brookvale."
Having lost veterans Anthony Watmough, Jason King and Glenn Stewart over the summer, this year's Sea Eagles are a vastly different side to the one heartbreakingly knocked out by a point in last year's semi-final by the Bulldogs.
But Hasler said his old team remains a dangerous outfit.
"You've got people like Matty Ballin who's such an experienced player, and you've got Jamie Buhrer, you've got the young [Tom] Trbojevic off the bench there," he said.
"The last thing you do is under-rate any team, particularly a team like Manly at Brookvale. We're going to have to step up and do our best because they're a side, when you look at their backline, it's just all class."
The contest will also be another opportunity for Blues coach Laurie Daley to see two of his fullback contenders go head-to-head in a blockbuster match between two competition heavyweights.
Hasler pushed Brett Morris' case after their win over the Eels last week, but took a small step back in his endorsement on Thursday.
"I only implied last week that Laurie Daley and the selectors have choices," he said.
"Brett Stewart needs no accolades, he's just a class player [with] what he can do at the back. Brett Morris is a world class winger, one of the best wingers in the world. At the same time, he's making a great go at fullback, isn't he?"
Hasler also indicated the club was well advanced in its negotiations to re-sign halfback Trent Hodkinson, and also weighed in on recent talk about the NRL's player retention fund.
"I haven't been following it all that closely, [but] until we actually get to that situation where they actually do have a case to answer for, then I'd imagine that it'll be well dissected and looked at then," he said.
"I imagine there'll be a number of criteria – the first thing you probably want to see is a contract from the other code."