Des Hasler has dismissed claims his Canterbury side are lacking confidence as he prepares to renew his rivalry with Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy.
A fired-up Des Hasler is relishing the chance to renew his rivalry with Craig Bellamy when Canterbury face Melbourne at AAMI Park on Sunday.
Two of the great coaches of modern times lock horns in a do-or-die encounter that will see the loser start making plans for 2015 and the winner keep alive hopes of adding a third premiership to their outstanding resumes.
With four premierships and nine grand final appearances between them, no coach in the top-eight comes close to matching the duo when it comes to winning.
Still unhappy following the Bulldogs’ second-half capitulation against the lowly Gold Coast last Sunday, Hasler was in no mood for pleasantries on Wednesday as he looked ahead to facing the Storm.
“You have to understand that when finals football comes around it’s a different competition,” Hasler snapped at a TV journalist who had the temerity to question the confidence of his side.
“You say that we have lost confidence. I disagree … next question.”
In the four finals encounters between the two men Bellamy leads 3-1 but Hasler has the edge 13-10 in regular season clashes.
Hasler’s Manly side beat Melbourne 40-0 in the 2008 grand final with Bellamy coming out on top 12 months earlier, but it was Melbourne who prevailed against the Bulldogs in the 2012 decider.
“They are finals experts, I think it’s 12 straight finals for them,” Hasler said.
“They are always a great contest, especially down there. Melbourne will play a very controlled football game and will complete really well and we need to match that.”
Canterbury have come out on top in both encounters between the sides this year, a runaway 40-12 win in Perth in round four followed by a 6-4 triumph in the Victorian capital in July.
That last win saw the Bulldogs move to the top of the ladder, but preceded an alarming slump that culminated in just two wins from their last eight games.
However, Hasler said he placed no stock in those results or his side’s patchy form.
“It was a tough win, but on a different stage, different circumstances, Origin had just finished,” he said.
“Let’s be honest, it’s do-or-die and that’s the way both sides will play.
“One thing I can give this Canterbury side credit for is that they can apply themselves for the big matches,” he said.
“It’s different level of football in a different level of competition.”
Melbourne are sweating on the fitness of skipper Cameron Smith who is rated as 50-50 to play due to an ankle injury.
But Hasler fully expects to see the Queensland and Test star leading his side onto the field.
“He is a tough, tough player,” Hasler said.
“He had an injury like this before and played Origin and got man-of-the-match.”
COACHES’ HEAD-TO-HEAD: DES v CRAIG
Hasler 13 Bellamy 10
Hasler 1 Bellamy 3
Hasler as Canterbury coach v Bellamy
NRL regular season
Hasler 4 Bellamy 2
Hasler 0 Bellamy 1
Hasler as Manly coach v Bellamy
NRL regular season
Hasler 8 Bellamy 5
Hasler 1 Bellamy 2