JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Hasler the man for a crisis as Dogs bunker down

Siege mentality … Bulldogs coach Des Hasler.

Siege mentality … Bulldogs coach Des Hasler. Photo: Colleen Petch

CANTERBURY coach Des Hasler is set to keep the identity of Ben Barba's replacement secret before the opening-round clash with North Queensland as he builds a siege mentality at the Bulldogs this season.

Hasler will officially name a team next Tuesday but Canterbury insiders say the player listed in the No.1 jersey may not be the fullback for the March 9 match at ANZ Stadium.

With props James Graham (suspended) and Sam Kasiano (knee) sidelined for the start of the season, the loss of Barba is a massive blow but the Bulldogs are fortunate to have Hasler as coach as he has experience in dealing with similar situations during his time at Manly.

Major blow ... Ben Barba is sidelined.

Major blow ... Ben Barba is sidelined. Photo: Getty Images

Under Hasler, the Sea Eagles overcame the fallout from star fullback Brett Stewart being charged with sexual assault - for which he was later exonerated - and suspended by the NRL for bringing the game into disrepute at the start of the 2009 season.

While Hasler has been praised for putting Barba's welfare ahead of the team's success, Fairfax Media has been told that he will use the absence of last year's player of the year as added motivation for the Bulldogs.

''I have known Des Hasler for a long time and I have worked with him in crisis situations before, and I know exactly what he will do,'' former long-serving Manly official Peter Peters said.

''He is a very caring, very professional mentor. He is not just a great rugby league coach, he has outstanding people skills and he will put Benny and his problems ahead of the football. But he uses crisis situations to bond teams, and he will use this to his advantage. There is a very strong bond around any team he coaches.''

Former Canberra back Drury Low has been training at fullback and deputised for Barba in the Bulldogs preseason trials but Fairfax Media has been told Hasler is considering switching NSW Origin centre Josh Morris to fullback.

However, Hasler will not confirm his intention as he wants to keep the Cowboys guessing. ''Whoever plays fullback is likely to be targeted, so Des wants to protect the guy from that,'' a Canterbury source said.

The Bulldogs began building a siege mentality at the club's season launch on Tuesday night when the team was summoned to a private room with Canterbury directors and told they should still aim to better last year's grand final loss.

Canterbury chief executive Todd Greenberg told the function the events of this week were a reminder of the need for everyone at the club to stick together.

Bulldogs football manager Alan Thompson said the expectations of the team had not changed.

''Des and Todd have shown me some great leadership in looking after the team, the club and young Ben and I think the leadership of those blokes will hold us all in good stead,'' Thompson said. ''We work on the depth of our team and I am sure everyone who steps up and has the opportunity to play will equip themselves very well.''

Peters said he believed Hasler would have prepared the players for the possibility of Barba being sidelined for an extended period.

''Ben Barba couldn't be in better hands and I think the Bulldogs should be congratulated for the way they've handled it,'' Peters said. ''Des will keep him out for as long as Ben needs to recover and whoever takes his place will do well and fit into the system.''

Related Coverage

Early signing helped Maloney's focus

JAMES MALONEY, who signed with Sydney Roosters 14 months before his first game with them, believes there is no better player transfer system available to the game's officials.

Melbourne draw short straw with whirlwind start to title defence

WITH the big kick-off to the new NRL season just a week away, the league's director of football operations, Nathan McGuirk, is already planning for the 2014 draw.

Forwards re-sign to lift Rabbitohs

South Sydney's promising future became a little brighter on Wednesday afternoon with forwards Luke Burgess and Chris McQueen signing new deals to remain at the club until the end of 2015.

Trial games thumbs up for referees

REFEREES boss Daniel Anderson said NRL coaches were ''comfortable'' with the way the pre-season trials were officiated after the final coaches meeting before round one.

Bulldogs sponsor loyal to the pack

Usually, when a star player goes off the rails, the club sponsor reconsiders its commitment.

Greenberg: 'This is not a club in crisis'

Canterbury chief executive Todd Greenberg says news of Ben Barba's off-field problems will not affect the club's relationship with sponsors.

Marshall dashed at loss of captaincy

Benji Marshall has been stripped of the New Zealand rugby league captaincy against his wishes ahead of this year's World Cup.

Schubert gives Stewart deal OK

Brett Stewart's contract has been approved by salary cap auditor Ian Schubert and will be registered in time for the NRL season kick off.

Related Coverage

Follow Us on Facebook

Featured advertisers