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'Good timing': Hasler unfazed by daunting run to finals

With arguably the hardest run home of any team, Manly coach Des Hasler won't fret if the Sea Eagles drop a game before the finals.

Manly play third-placed Canberra at GIO Stadium on Sunday and then take on ladder-leading Melbourne and finals locks Parramatta to finish the regular season.

While reiterating the aim to cement a spot in the top four, Hasler said he can accept defeat leading into the playoffs on the proviso his players go down swinging.

"I think with a tough run home if you suffer a loss, as long as you've been competitive and work really hard in that loss [it's okay]," Hasler said.

"Sometimes a tough run home is good because it prepares you for playing that intense footy pre-finals and you know what you're going to get in the finals.

" ... On the other [side of the] coin, what's an easy run home? I'm not too much of a believer in an easy run and and a hard run home. It's how you approach it that's probably more accurate."

Raiders v Sea Eagles - Round 23

Hasler anticipates a bruising battle with the Raiders, who completed a stunning comeback versus the Storm last round to join the Sea Eagles and Roosters as the only clubs to trump Melbourne at their AAMI Park fortress this year.

The Sea Eagles are well-rested for the clash after a 10-day turnaround following a victory against Wests Tigers.

"It's good timing. We're expecting a really physical game against Canberra ... They've been like that all year, they're playing a really good brand of footy right across the park. We expect it to be no different," Hasler said.

DCE unsurprised by Sea Eagles' rise up the ladder

"Certainly the confidence they would have got out of Melbourne last week [will be telling]. Expecting a big crowd there too, I'd say. They come out and support their local team which is good. It adds up to a really good game.

"I think Canberra is always a tough road trip for any side. It's probably tougher when you play in the middle of winter at 8 o'clock [at night], but 4 o'clock tomorrow afternoon the sun should be shining. So it will be a good spectacle for the fans."

Hasler's men have already beaten the Raiders once in 2019 - 24-20 in round seven - but they're wary of the threats posed by the fighting Green Machine.

"They compete right across the park. They've got a tremendous back five and they carry the ball hard," Hasler said.

"Their middle has been going really solidly and they've got a really clever number nine [Josh Hodgson]. So you can understand why they're going so well."

The Sea Eagles will snatch back fourth position from the Rabbitohs on differential with a win in Canberra - a fact that wasn't lost on Hasler.

"We'd like to finish in the top four. Obviously you get that extra opportunity, that extra game," he said.

"But it is what it is and the good thing about it is it's within our control."

The race for the last two finals spots

The improving form of Dylan Walker since moving to five-eighth in round 18 has impressed Hasler, who confirmed the 24-year-old is close to striking a new deal at Manly.

The two-time premiership-winning mentor gave his match-eve interview at the Sydney Academy of Sport and Recreation gymnasium with a fierce wheelchair basketball game in the background and wanted to promote the sport.

"It's probably more intense competition than what it will be tomorrow down in Canberra. Wheelchair Sports NSW have got their Country Cup this week," Hasler said.

"The [wheelchair] players and the [Sea Eagles] boys have been mixing in and it's great to see. They're fanatical rugby league supporters and they're even more intense on the court."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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