NRL 2 years ago

Cook our finals X-factor: Hasler

  • Cook our finals X-factor: Hasler

Canterbury coach Des Hasler believes rookie hooker Damien Cook can have a similar impact upon the NRL finals to the likes of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Michael Morgan and Anthony Milford.

Ahead of the Bulldogs' elimination clash with St George Illawarra on Saturday, Hasler says Cook is among a number of youngsters set to make their mark in September.

Cook, 24, has played just a handful of top-grade games after taking over from first choice rake Michael Lichaa who suffered a season ending ankle injury in round 23 against Gold Coast.

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"I think it will be a really exciting finals series with some good footy played particularly with the emergence of a lot of new players, a lot of rookies that have really stamped their name on the game," Hasler told media at Belmore Sports Ground on Friday.

"Players like the Milfords that have come up, obviously the Tuivasa-Shecks, the Morgans all those types of players are going to make it a very interesting finals series.

"Young (Mitch) Rein who is playing against us tomorrow night (is another) and Damien Cook gets his opportunity in this finals series."

The former Dragon has played just seven first grade games but has been one of the Dogs' best in their final month of the premiership.

"Damien has come in and picked it up and rolled on with it," Hasler said.

"He displayed some good qualities last year, he has trained hard he has been really consistent and it has been no surprise to his teammates.

"The thing the players like about Damien is that he doesn't get carried away, he knows his role."

Canterbury Fullback Brett Morris will return from a minor quad injury to face his former side in the sudden death encounter.

Dragons playmaker Gareth Widdop missed the joint venture's final round match against Wests Tigers due to a quad injury. He wasn't named by coach Paul McGregor on Tuesday but Hasler said he expected the England international to play at ANZ Stadium.

"We have trained for Gareth to play and for Gareth not to play it will almost have to be a broken leg and that is the same for any player," Hasler said.

"At this time of year you want to play and he will do everything in his power and I am sure St George will do everything in their power to get him to play.

"So, yes, I expect him to play."

McGregor offered a confirmation of sorts - that Widdop will at least participate in the Dragons' warm-up.

They beat the Bulldogs 31-6 in round six earlier before the Dogs returned the favour 29-16 in round 13.

The winner will play the loser of the Roosters v Storm clash away from home next week, the loser is finished for the year.

KEY STATS

* The Bulldogs' far left edge is the most dangerous attacking channel of any of the finalists (37 of 97 tries) while the Dragons' far right is statistically their worst defensive channel (22 of 73 tries conceded)

* Penalties may be hard to come by for the Bulldogs. The Dragons have conceded the second fewest this season (5.8 per game) while the Bulldogs have been awarded the equal fewest (5.6 per game).

* At Manly, Des Hasler won just four of 15 matches against the Dragons, easily his worst record against any opponent, but since moving to the Bulldogs in 2012 he has won six of seven matches against them - his third best record overall and the Dragons' equal worst record against any team in that period.

Source: Fox Sports

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