Canterbury coach Des Hasler says people who believe Bulldogs big men Sam Kasiano and Frank Pritchard will be hindered rather than helped by a week off from playing at this time of the year are not aware of how things work at a football club.
''We tend to think we can manage it,'' Hasler said last night. ''People don't really understand what goes on over a two-week period like this at a club. We had a very intense, physical game against Manly [in the first week of the finals], and the break from playing has helped all of the guys here.''
Prop Kasiano is among the biggest players in the competition, with second-rower Pritchard not far behind him, and some critics have suggested that a week off from playing - particularly during the finals series, when the games are more intense - could set them back a bit when it comes to handling the pace.
But two-time premiership-winning coach Hasler says the pair will be as ready to go as they have been at any stage this season when Canterbury play South Sydney in the second preliminary final at ANZ Stadium tomorrow night.
''People are entitled to their opinion, but in this instance I've got to say that sort of opinion is incorrect,'' he said. ''Sam and Frank have played in pretty close to all of our games this season, and the week off has been good for them. It has helped them freshen up.
''The week off from playing is what it is, so what you've got to do is adjust to it and do your best to make it work for you.
''We played Manly on the Friday, and then I gave the players the weekend off.
''They came back to work on the Monday, and then I gave them the following weekend off as well. So it's been a lot about recovery, and then getting ready for this week's game. Recovery is very important at this time of the year.
''If you have to play every week, you prepare within that time-frame and play. If you get a week off, you use it. Over the two-week period it has reached the stage now where the players are really looking forward to playing on Saturday night.''
The Canterbury-Manly game saw poor completion rates from both teams - the Bulldogs 69 per cent and the Sea Eagles 59 per cent - but Hasler wasn't as bothered by that as he normally would be. He said that in such a tough game it was understandable the ball came loose a bit.
''Some of it was unforced errors, and some of it was caused by the collisions,'' he said. ''It was just that type of game. But, however the game is being played, the aim is obviously to win, and we did that. But when you come out of the game you work to improve in certain areas that need improving, and the completion rate is one of those. Our defence was very strong on the night, and it has been that way all year.''
Hasler nominated Souths hooker Issac Luke, prop Roy Asotasi and second-rowers Sam Burgess and Dave Taylor as being among the most dangerous players Canterbury will have to contend with tomorrow night.
''I think Luke starting the game again is very important,'' he said. ''And Asotasi is an unsung hero, with the number of carries he makes and the start he gives his team. He plays big minutes for a prop. Then you've got Burgess and Taylor coming at you.''
- Sydney Morning Herald