Canterbury coach Des Hasler will become a modern-day coaching great if he guides the Bulldogs to victory in Sunday’s NRL grand final.
If Canterbury pull off the seemingly impossible and win Sunday’s NRL grand final then Des Hasler will join the ranks of coaching royalty.
The Bulldogs looked dead and buried after a slump in form towards the back end of the season as they fell from top of the table to seventh after just two wins from their last eight games.
No team has won a grand final from outside of the top-four since the Bulldogs outfit that finished fifth in 1995.
This current Canterbury team’s chances of success looked remote in round 26 when they lost 19-18 to a poor Gold Coast side having led 18-0 at halftime.
An away clash with Melbourne awaited Hasler’s men in the opening week of the finals with the Storm fully expected to brush aside the out-of-form Bulldogs.
The coach was at his waspish best in the week leading up to the game, firmly putting in his place a brash, young TV reporter who tried to tell him his side was lacking confidence.
And how right he was as the Storm were rocked by an early onslaught at AAMI Park to trail 24-0 at halftime before going down 28-4.
Narrow wins over Manly and Penrith followed to tee up a titanic clash with a Souths side who were too good for reigning premiers the Sydney Roosters in their preliminary final.
The Bulldogs go into the game $3.00 underdogs – the biggest price for a grand final team since the 2000 Roosters that were beaten by Brisbane.
That Hasler outburst to the stunned reporter showed yet another side to his chameleon-like character.
Smart, paranoid, deeply religious, quirky, funny, caring, passionate, charismatic, parsimonious and intensely private have all be used to describe the 53-year-old over the years.
Legend has it the former representative halfback used to deny his own existence to bemused pupils when teaching at a Catholic primary school in the early 90s, claiming he was in fact his non-existent twin brother.
It is one of many cracking yarns about Hasler who, according to one of his former players, has an avid phobia of road tolls.
But his ability to coach is certainly no joke, as he saddles up for a fifth grand final appearance in eight years.
He also imbues a loyalty from his players that stems from a knowledge he will do anything for them on and off the field.
“I know even now that I can ring Dessie and ask for advice and help about anything if I need it,” recently-retired Manly prop Josh Perry told AAP.
“I remember meeting him for the first time. I was coming off-contract at Newcastle and a few other clubs were interested. But after speaking with Dessie I was like ‘where do I sign?’
“The Bulldogs players will run that extra 10 per cent for Dessie tomorrow and that is why I think they can win.”
Hasler’s impassioned defence of Brett Stewart, aimed squarely at former NRL CEO David Gallop in 2011, after he refused to apologise for what he considered a wrongful suspension in 2009, was clear proof how much his players mean to him.
As is his constant presence at the NRL judiciary hearing room whenever one of his players is in the dock.
“He’s a great man and by far and away the best coach in the NRL,” Canterbury back-rower Tony Williams told AAP.
“The man knows footy inside out, and is the ultimate man-manager. Players will run through walls for him.
“He still scares me to death, but I owe him a lot and have nothing but respect for him.”