Hasler encourages Manly fans to take aim
Canterbury coach Des Hasler has encouraged Manly fans to bring the hate during his highly anticipated return to Brookvale Oval on Friday night.
But the former Sea Eagles mentor insists he is not expecting a hostile reception from supporters of the club he guided to two NRL premierships before his acrimonious off-season departure.
Hasler joined Canterbury within a week of helping the Sea Eagles claim the 2012 premiership, ending a near 30-year association with the club and angering its fans.
There’s no question there is still ill feeling toward Hasler from the Manly fanbase, with supporter groups planning on bringing banners questioning Hasler’s loyalty and his decision to leave the club.
But far from shying away from the potentially volatile atmosphere, Hasler has given it his full support.
“It’d be great (if they give it to me). That’s what it’s all about, it’s the passion, the tribalism,” Hasler said.
“I’m sure if I turned up to their place on Sunday afternoon for a barbie, they wouldn’t turn me away.
“That’s what it’s all about, the emotion, it’s what you want.”
More than anything, Hasler is looking forward to seeing how his Bulldogs – who are chasing their eighth win on-the-trot – match up to Manly’s unforgiving style of play.
“It’s an opportunity for this young Bulldogs side to really get a taste of grind football,” he said.
“It will be a great experience for us and a real learning curve for us to experience that type of side, against who I view as the benchmark side.
“They are the NRL premiers and they’ve got players who can lift for the big games. It will be a good test for us.”
Star Bulldogs front-rower James Graham can’t wait to get a taste of Fortress Brookvale.
“The atmosphere will be really intense, a hostile environment,” Graham said.
“We want to see where we’re at.”
Graham, who is familiar with rivalry clashes from his time with St Helens in the English Super League, said this was not a game Hasler was prepared to lose.
Hasler has already had to endure his former club triumphing 12-10 when the two teams met in round eight.
“Des isn’t good at losing at the best of times and I’m sure he won’t want to lose this game,” Graham added.
“As players we’re trying to not concentrate on what happened in the past, and concentrate on the now. Regardless of what went on at the end of last year, it’s not really any of my business.
“… Obviously there’s a great atmosphere (at Brookvale), any game that’s played there, and obviously with the little side story that’s going on I think the atmosphere will be really intense.
“I’m not too sure (if Manly fans hate Hasler). They’re entitled to their opinions. I’m not privy to all the facts, so who am I to talk about it?”© AAP 2013
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