The final four: Des is the joker in the pack

Dane Eldridge Columnist

By Dane Eldridge, Dane Eldridge is a Roar Expert

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13 Have your say

    Even though this finals series has been all over the shop, we still find ourselves at the preliminary stage with three of the top four ranked sides still in contention. So on yer bike, romantic unpredictability.

    In saying that, all is not lost for those who appreciate some whimsical horseplay in a controlled environment – all you have to do is just look to the coaching ranks.

    Sure, there are some who are perspiring over all manner of pressing issues, with furrowed brows and the world on their shoulders, and then there’s Des Hasler.

    At the time of the year when the microwave is on high, when everyone is straight-laced and narky, and when lips are pursed and arms are crossed so tight that there’s no circulation to the extremities, the Dogs doyen has deployed the kaleidoscopic demeanour and decided to kick-off a big old game of silly buggers.

    We all know this as the Dessie we love and would love to strangle. He’s on ‘loveable old scammer’ mode and he wants to lure you in and pick your pocket, and this is why that of the remaining four in 2014, he is definitely the joker in the pack.

    When you’ve overseen nine straight finals campaigns and you’re clinically cooky, your kitbag of highjinks runs deep. When you find yourself as the solitary crazy old man among a pack of worthy-yet-wired cubs and you’re pressure-free after coming from the clouds, you dust off your Sunday best and really tickle some brains.

    Thus far, Des has been putting on the full ritz.

    Since masterminding a Godfather of an upset against Melbourne, Hasler has been steadily increasing his antics with each week he’s defied sudden-death. Palming off compliments, blowing smoke up opponent’s bums, blowing smoke up the referee’s bums, nitpicking over semantics, extending benches, calling almost-mute press conferences and even sometimes laughing.

    Add to this his team’s snap acceleration in performance and danger factor, and the whole situation is doing everyone’s heads in.

    In comparison to the other coaches, the crafty Bulldog seems to be cruising. Trent Robinson looks antsy for that elusive 80-minute performance, Michael Maguire is lumping around a backpack of expectation and Ivan Cleary is tirelessly campaigning for respect.

    Des, however, is writing jokes and sitting back in his chair so far that it might even be on a lean, content in the knowledge that he is the ultimate dangerous outlier.

    It’s an amazing position that him and his team find themselves in considering how smelly they were coming in to the finals. In the approach, they struck fear in to their opposition with six losses in their last eight games, forgetting in the process how to run up points and cause headaches for everybody but themselves.

    Now they are remarkably up to their nosehairs in the race for the title belt as $1.75 favourites to advance to a grand bloody final on Saturday night. In the space of two weeks, it seems the joker with the blow-wave has acquired all of the aces.

    Can Hasler steer this team in to an utterly insane berth for the last game of the year?

    If it happens, it would rank as one of his greatest ever wool-pulling ruses, and probably even greater than that time he wanted to feed his players pints of calves blood. Good times.

    However, standing in his way is a hyper-committed Penrith team with a persecution complex and a wily coach. This man in charge Cleary must be congratulated for adopting the ‘monkey see, monkey do’ mantra in the lead-up to the match with a preparation meticulously tailored to his opponent.

    The Panther mogul started the week by draining a few VBs at the NSW Cup semis on Sunday before spending the coaches’ press conference talking up his opposition and jauntily recounting how good Hasler’s camomile tea was back in their days at Manly. Then he nearly nodded off as he listened to his own voice, despite a disco of cameras flashing all up in his grill.

    Whether this tactical response is enough from Cleary remains to be seen. One feels that when you are coming up against a two-time premiership coach with a famed intemperance that’s peaking on the YOLO setting, you’re going to need more than a relaxed outlook and some reverse psychology.

    As they say in Dutch leisure, it’s going to be “toit”.

    Nevertheless, regardless of the outcome of this tantalising fixture, one cannot deny that in an unforgettable circus of a finals series, Hasler has been entertainment on toast – even more so than usual.

    Whether you are one of his disciples, a neutral or even a hater, you’ve got to admit that there’s no greater sight than Des in full flight. I salute you, you purveyor of pranks, and applaud your gravel-toned brand of mayhem while ever it’s used to undermine any team other than the Roosters or anyone I’ve backed.

    Calling all Roarers! It’s time for a group Descussion.

    Is the Dogs coach on the cusp of making us all look like fools by advancing to the grand final? Do you appreciate his gruff disposition or do you want to noogie that boofy head of his? Or will Cleary’s Panthers be the ones who end up doing the out-foxing?

    Dane Eldridge
    Dane Eldridge

    Dane was named best and fairest in the 2004 Bathurst mixed indoor cricket competition. With nothing in the game left to achieve, he immediately retired at his peak to a reclusive life ensconced in the velvet of organised contests. Catch the man on Twitter @eld2_0.

    If you could choose from any and every NRL player in the competition, who would you pick in your rugby league dream team? Let us know with our team picker right here, and be sure to share it with all your league-loving mates.

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    The Crowd Says (13)

    • September 26th 2014 @ 5:46am
      The Barry said | September 26th 2014 @ 5:46am | ! Report

      With the exception of Maguire they’ve all been to the GF before.

      Panthers seem keen to let everyone know how relaxed they are.

      “Look at me I’m so relaxed I’m drinking VB on the hill.” They don’t have many in their squad with experience at this time of year.

      Maguire gets peppered with questions regarding chokes and must be getting frustrated. Every souths interview it’s been a topic so it’s definitely front and centre in their psyches.

      For mine Robinson seemed to be more comfortable last year. He seemed absolutely shell shocked in the two post game press conferences and his faux outrage at the Minichello chicken photo was lame to say the least. I was watching that one thinking “is that the best you’ve got?”

      • September 26th 2014 @ 11:43am
        Benny said | September 26th 2014 @ 11:43am | ! Report

        I would say robbo always look shell shocked, he’s just an emotionless kind of guy. And he also admitted that the mini thing was just a ploy to get a bit of hype on something else other than footy

        • Roar Guru

          September 26th 2014 @ 12:36pm
          The Barry said | September 26th 2014 @ 12:36pm | ! Report

          Hey Benny – I knew from the first moment it was a distraction but it was pretty lame “they should show more respect…”

          It’s a shame that coaches spend time and effort trying to distract people from the footy.

          • September 26th 2014 @ 2:40pm
            Benny said | September 26th 2014 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

            Yeah is a shame, but when you have the media the way it is with the NRL then you can see why they do it. I’m surprised Mcguire hasn’t taken talk away from choking. I for one am still doubtful of this calm and relaxed face theyre putting on. To me it seems like they have gone down the road of completely rejecting the past two years and taking this year as a completely new year.

            Now, that’s all well and good, it is a new year. But I don’t think you can reject the fact that you have failed at this hurdle two years in a row. And I personally think that they are feeling the pressure, I mean, Madge’s post match spray didn’t scream out relaxed a couple of weeks ago.

    • September 26th 2014 @ 7:28am
      up in the north said | September 26th 2014 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      There was a photo of Des on the roar yesterday showing him smiling, I thought he must have had gas.

    • Roar Guru

      September 26th 2014 @ 8:47am
      Will Sinclair said | September 26th 2014 @ 8:47am | ! Report

      To get the Dogs this far, Des Hasler must have done some unspeakable deal with the Devil.

      So he might look relaxed now, but he won’t be so smug when he’s in Hell’s Ironic Punishment Lab being force-fed donuts.

      • September 26th 2014 @ 9:18am
        Parrafan said | September 26th 2014 @ 9:18am | ! Report

        Will I said yesterday that the Bulldogs season is reminiscent of their 1995 season. They limped into the finals that year in 6th spot, only getting in on their final match and then managed to win the gf. Maybe the Bulldogs has done a deal with the devil?

        • September 26th 2014 @ 4:05pm
          The Barry said | September 26th 2014 @ 4:05pm | ! Report

          How good was 95?

        • September 27th 2014 @ 2:33pm
          josh said | September 27th 2014 @ 2:33pm | ! Report

          did the same in 1998 pretty sure they finished 9th. i think it was a top 10 that year. don’t quote me on it. managed to awesome come from behind wins against newcastle and parra and eventually fell apart against brisbane in the final.
          also a interesting stat is the dogs have been in a gf in 1974, 1984, 1994, 2004 and 10 yrs later on the verge of another one.

    • September 26th 2014 @ 9:05am
      MAX said | September 26th 2014 @ 9:05am | ! Report

      Des was born to coach at C-B RLFC . His CV has and history will record the wisdom of his coming.

      Trent has the two best wingers and also the best halves combo in the NRL. All are GF proven.
      He may be concerned for the fitness of his #’s 8,9,11 and 15. and the residuals of last week.

      Michael shows he knows this is the most important game of his coaching career. With respect,
      his #’s10, 11,and 14 may not be premiership material. His #’s 1,12 and 13 are playing injured.

      Ivan is the coolest cat in town. His forwards play for keeps. His backs are forever alert. Penrith
      have been rewarded with repeated visits to the ‘Luck Well.’ Is there any left???

      I think the answer lies in the soil of the 7,480m2 white lined paddock at Homebush Coliseum.

      • September 26th 2014 @ 9:47am
        MAX said | September 26th 2014 @ 9:47am | ! Report

        I was going to say glory instead of wisdom, but I did not want any knocks on the door.

    • September 27th 2014 @ 9:50am
      fiver said | September 27th 2014 @ 9:50am | ! Report

      If I was Macguire I would be praying the Panthers win tonight. I think the Dogs are the only team that can match the Rabbitohs forward pack in size and aggression. If the Bulldogs make the grand final then I would back them to win the premiership. Far less pressure on them and Hasler’s experience will get them over the line.

      • September 27th 2014 @ 9:58am
        Pickett said | September 27th 2014 @ 9:58am | ! Report

        Write off Penrith at your own risk.

        Easts did that in 2003 and paid the price. They have no expectation. no favouratism and no pressure – ingredients for a very dangerous team.

        Penrith will beat Canterbury today and play Souths next week.

        I expect it to be a torrid affair, and won’t be surprised if 2003 was repeated.

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