ALL hail the conquering hero.
Des Hasler might have been the toast of Brookvale after leading Manly to last year's NRL premiership.
But he's more likely to be treated like a villain when he returns for the first time with his Canterbury Bulldogs on Friday night.
Geoff Toovey, the man who was thrust into the top job at Manly when Hasler took the big dollars on offer at Belmore, was trying to play down the fact Hasler's return will be the big talking point on the North Shore all week.
"I don't care to tell you the truth," Toovey said. "They are up the top of the table Canterbury, so our players will definitely be up for it.
"They are a quality side, we need to be on our game and prepare accordingly."
Hasler was taking the same approach as his former teammate, saying the coaches' clash would take a back seat to what was sure to be a typically tough Brookvale encounter.
"There's nothing personal about it," Hasler said. "It will be a really good experience for us over there to get into a grind and a real good arm wrestle, which they are renowned for."
Hasler has been a revelation at the Bulldogs, and hard-working back-rower David Stagg said the improved results on the field had been a reflection of the changes off it.
"We've got a young squad and Des has brought a lot of structure, not just on the field but off the field too," Stagg said.
"The guys are keen to take everything on board ... we've all learnt plenty."
Stagg said he believed Hasler's knowledge of sports science was second to none, adding he had never felt so good both physically and mentally during a season.
"With the speed work and weights we're doing, he's got a background there that we haven't seen before. I haven't felt a flat spot yet this year," the former Queensland State of Origin representative said.
While stars like Ben Barba and Josh Morris have earned most of the headlines, Stagg said the efforts of players like inexperienced halves Josh Reynolds and Kris Keating, and also mid-season signings Sam Perrett and Krisnan Inu had been outstanding.
"Everyone's doing their role and we're gelling pretty well," Stagg said. "Kris is doing a wonderful job while Josh brings plenty of enthusiasm and keeps us on our toes.
"Sam and Krisnan have fitted in so well, it feels like they've been here a lot longer than they have".
The bad news for the Bulldogs yesterday was that Sam Kasiano will miss the clash unless he successfully challenges a grade two careless high tackle charge against Parramatta forward Fuifui Moimoi from last Friday night.
Even an early guilty plea will see Kasiano miss one match.
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