How Hasler turned the Dogs into contenders

HARD TASKMASTER: Canterbury Bulldogs' coach Des Hasler.
HARD TASKMASTER: Canterbury Bulldogs' coach Des Hasler.

Canterbury Bulldogs players have given an insight into how Des Hasler has taken them from missing the finals in the past two seasons to being just one win from the premiership decider.

''I don't think there is a time that Des doesn't ever ramp it up,'' captain Michael Ennis said of Hasler's training methods.

Under Hasler, the Bulldogs are believed to have had more training sessions than other clubs, with an emphasis on short, intense workouts.

During the off-season, Canterbury players were completing up to 30 sessions a week.

On the training paddock, Hasler likes to divide the ground into grids so the players know where they should be at all times, particularly when practising their defence.

Since taking over at Canterbury this season, he has had poles bearing cameras mounted at either end of Belmore Sports Ground to enable him to video and review sessions. With the ground marked in grids, he can quickly check the players are evenly spread across the field in defence.

Hasler is also known for his attention to detail, and the players repeatedly rehearse set plays, such as the move in which Ben Barba sweeps behind a decoy runner to create a left-side overlap.

Forward Frank Pritchard, who usually acts as the decoy before Barba receives the ball behind him and links with Josh Morris, said Hasler expected him to time his run to perfection in games. If not, Pritchard said: ''He's going to blow up at me. We get our lines right, it keeps a smile on his face. Otherwise I don't want to be on his bad side.''

Hasler uses the resulting footage to help his players understand exactly what he wants of them in certain situations during a match, and the Bulldogs regularly take part in opposed sessions. ''We always try to involve our under-20s and our premier league sides at some stage during the week,'' Ennis said.

With the Bulldogs winning their opening finals match against Manly 16-10, they have had two weeks to prepare for tonight's clash with South Sydney. Ennis said Hasler had changed little of their training regime during their week off.

''Des and his staff have obviously been in this situation before [at Manly] so it has been really good for us,'' Ennis said. ''There was an opportunity early in the week to rest a few blokes who had bumps and bruises, but in saying that the quality of training was where it needed to been ...

''With the structures that we have worked under since he has been here, we maintained that to the standard that he requires throughout last week. The sports science area and the recovery side of things was probably extended by a day or two but training was as normal pretty much from Tuesday.''

Having spent $500,000 on equipment such as the GPS-equipped vests Hasler wanted when he took over, the Bulldogs have recently invested their $100,000 prizemoney for winning the minor premiership in an altitude chamber.

Sydney Morning Herald