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Master v the apprentice: Bulldogs coach Des Hasler with Sea Eagles counterpart Geoff Toovey.

Bulldogs coach Des Hasler channelled his inner Ned Kelly on Thursday morning, expressing his sympathy for embattled counterpart Geoff Toovey ahead of Friday night's clash against Manly. 

The Sea Eagles coach has come under fire for Manly's disappointing start to the season that has them rooted at the bottom of the NRL table after six rounds. 

It's been a disastrous 2015 on the northern beaches, particularly on top of the upcoming departures of star halves Kieran Foran and Daly Cherry-Evans at the end of the year. 

"What did Ned Kelly say, 'Such is life'?" Hasler said. "They've just got to see their way through it. They get their way through it and try and handle it the best way they can. 

"Time, we hope, fixes all things. But they've just got to get their players back onto the field and start winning footy games. You win footy games, it all goes away, doesn't it?"

Like he did prior to their previous clash three weeks ago, the two-time premiership-winning coach jumped to the defence of his old teammate. 

"Geoff's come out and said himself, he's a professional. He's a seasoned competitor and, knowing Geoff, he'll handle it," Hasler said. 

"He's a good fella. He'll take it all on the chin. He's a fighter, as we all know. He'll be okay. 

"I heard a comment on radio last night, you look at his record over the last couple of years. The best point to come out of it was [that] you're best to judge him when he's got his full contingent."

Hasler is battling a similar injury-front at his current club. 

On top of being without the services of James Graham, David Klemmer and Sam Kasiano due to suspension, the Bulldogs are likely to be down another front-rower on Friday night with Tim Browne unlikely to recover from concussion in time for kick off. 

"He's getting there. Obviously it was an experience where he lost consciousness. So we're all fully aware of the responsibilities around that. He'll be battling to play this week," Hasler said. 

The club will celebrate its 20th anniversary of its famous 1995 premiership victory over the Sea Eagles, who featured both coaching rivals Hasler and Toovey. 

Then-skipper Terry Lamb will lead the club down the tunnel in their retro strip. 

"I feel very proud actually, even though I won't be running, I'll be limping out. It'll be a slow run, but I'll enjoy it. That's for sure," Lamb said. 

"Hopefully we get a good crowd, we've always had great games against Manly. Especially with Dessie, the former coach over there as well. I'll be very proud and taking my whole family as well for first time."

Lamb conceded the club's current halves Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson were struggling for form in the lead-up to this year's Origin series. 

"Joey's [Anderw Johns] probably right. The way they're playing at the moment, they probably don't deserve the spot," he said. 

"But we've still got four weeks to improve. They had the job last year, they've just got to play a little bit better, play more consistent, and push the team around to get into that spot. 

"But Laurie will make that decision. Everybody's got their input in how they're playing and how they should be playing. But Laurie will be making that decision in five or six weeks."

The Bulldogs legend argued that both players were feeling the effects of not completing a full pre-season over the summer after undergoing off-season surgery. 

"I don't think they're playing as good as they were. But in saying that, Josh has just come back from suspension, he didn't have a pre-season either. Trent didn't have a pre-season," he said. 

"They're building into the season. I'd rather them play really good at the end of the season if we're into the grand final or semi finals, and build up to that. But the team itself, we've got injuries everywhere, we've got suspensions everywhere, you just can't blame those two for how we're playing at this stage."


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