DES HASLER has already paid for himself at Canterbury this season - regardless of whether the Bulldogs win Sunday's grand final against Melbourne.
The Herald can reveal details of what will go down as the most lucrative month in Canterbury's 77-year history and which will top $1 million in turnover if they beat the Storm to take out the premiership and the $400,000 in prizemoney that comes with it.
Canterbury have done a stunning trade in the sale of merchandise during their run through the finals series and that, combined with performance bonuses written into main sponsorship contracts, ticket sales for corporate functions and finals prizemoney, has sent the club's September earnings skyrocketing.
The Bulldogs have already earned $100,000 in prizemoney for winning the minor premiership, and can't earn less than $200,000 from the grand final. Plus, as the Herald revealed last week, Gary Johnston, the managing director of main sponsor Jaycar Electronics, promised the club at a pre-season lunch that he would pay an extra $100,000 if the Bulldogs won the minor premiership.
Canterbury have set themselves big goals for the future under the leadership of chief executive Todd Greenberg and a switched-on board of directors. And the staff under Greenberg are clearly some of the best performing in the competition when it comes to marketing and attracting sponsors. But the contribution of Hasler to the club's growth is undeniably huge. The team wouldn't be in the grand final
without him. The Bulldogs didn't make the finals last season or the year before. Hasler wasn't supposed to arrive at the club until next season, but came a year early after splitting with Manly, where he didn't get on with the board.
Hasler coached the Sea Eagles to two premierships - in 2008 and last season - and has been instantly successful in transplanting his magic to another club. Bulldogs officials refuse to discuss the specifics of contracts, but it was known at the time that Hasler accepted less money to join the Bulldogs than he could have earned by re-signing at Manly.
The Herald understands Hasler's earnings this season will reach about $700,000, including bonuses, if Canterbury beat the Storm. ''If the team wins on Sunday it will take the club past the million-dollar mark in gross earnings for September,'' Greenberg said yesterday. ''I can't think the Bulldogs would have ever had a better month financially than this one, if it ends the way we would like it to. And you've got to consider the flow-on effect as well.
''The on-field success of the team this year enables the club to leverage opportunities next year and further into the future. For example, we had a members-only day at training yesterday and on the day we sold 300 memberships to people for next year who wanted to be able to attend training. There was a crowd of about 4000 there.''
Canterbury aim to develop the sort of profile AFL club Collingwood has on the Australian sporting landscape, and Bulldogs director Paul Dunn said yesterday he, Greenberg and club chairman Ray Dib met the Magpies president Eddie McGuire while the Bulldogs were in Melbourne for a club game against the Storm in April.
''The meeting reinforced a lot of our views and opened our eyes to some other things,'' Dunn said. ''Eddie made the point that you can have the best club in the world, but at the end of the day you've got to win competitions to prove you're successful. The average membership for AFL clubs in 1998 was 8000, but now the top clubs have memberships of 50,000 or more. Collingwood has 75,000. There's no reason we can't aim at that.''
Dunn described Hasler as the ''buy of the decade'' and said Greenberg and his staff would be ready to build on any further success.