The four NRL coaches competing in this weekend’s preliminary finals assesmbled at Rugby League Central on Monday but gave little away.
Former Manly teammates Des Hasler and Ivan Cleary were full of mutual admiration as the NRL finals phoney war got underway in the inaugural coaches’ call at Rugby League Central on Monday.
In a new idea brought in by the NRL for preliminary finals week, Canterbury chief Hasler, Penrith mentor Cleary were joined by Trent Robinson of the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney’s Michael Maguire for a four-way media conference.
All four men were very much keeping their cards close to their chests ahead of this weekend’s blockbuster fixtures at ANZ Stadium.
But it was Hasler who stole centre stage with the two-time premiership-winning coach entertaining the assembled media in his own unique manner.
After keeping everyone waiting for 10 minutes due to traffic congestion in Sydney, Hasler was at pains to extol the virtues of the Panthers – despite his side being firm favourites to book a place in the grand final.
“The bookmakers know nothing, Penrith have beaten us twice this year,” Hasler said.
“Penrith have been outstanding this year and defied all the critics, it makes you appreciate the coaching of Ivan … and it will be another close one I anticipate.”
Cleary recalled Hasler making coffee for everyone when they were teammates at Manly in the 1990s with his opponent remembering an ‘ice-cool’ fullback, before claiming momentum means nothing at this time of year.
“What do you get when you take the um off momentum?” Hasler said.
“That’s right, moment, and these games are about the moment and the wonderful athletes that play the game.”
Maguire and Robinson face off on Friday as the Rabbitohs look to reach the grand final for the first time in 44 years by beating their bitter rivals and reigning premiers.
Robinson said his side had recovered well from Friday’s nail biting win over North Queensland and Maguire said he’d spent his weekend off “mowing the mother-in-law’s lawn”
“The last three weeks we have played good footy and held onto things … we’re in a good frame of mind,” Robinson said.