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Hasler plays up Canterbury' s depth

Des Hasler

His side may be without their talisman and most potent attacking weapon, but Canterbury coach Des Hasler says they'll cope without Ben Barba.
Hasler plays up Canterbury' s depth
by AAP

By Ian McCullough

SYDNEY, March 5 AAP - His side may be without their talisman and most potent attacking weapon, but Canterbury coach Des Hasler says they'll cope without Ben Barba.

After lifting the JJ Giltinan Shield having won the minor premiership en route to the grand final, it's been far from smooth sailing for the Bulldogs.

In addition to losing to Melbourne in the decider, outstanding English prop James Graham was banned for 12 games for biting the ear of Storm fullback Billy Slater.

The club were then embroiled in a furore after a female television reporter was allegedly insulted following the club's Mad Monday celebrations.

There was then the bombshell that Dally M Medallist Barba, who has scored 60 tries in 72 games for the club since 2010, would be stood down indefinitely as he sorts out issues in his private life.

And with their NRL season kicking off against North Queensland in Gosford on Saturday, the Bulldogs will have to face one of the NRL's best forward packs without their three senior front-rowers.

In addition to the loss of Graham, Sam Kasiano (groin) and Frank Pritchard (leg) will be out for up to a month, giving opportunities to Josh Jackson and Martin Taupau.

Hasler was at his prickly best when he fronted the media on Tuesday at Belmore Oval.

He reluctantly revealed Steve Turner would replace Barba at fullback instead of Drury Low who'll play on the wing.

The former Manly coach then vehemently denied his preparations would be affected by the loss of Barba then demanded to know the name of young TV reporter who asked him a question.

And in what could be a new first he talked up his side claiming they had the ability in their squad to cope without their big names.

"We have lots of other star players," Hasler snapped.

"We have plenty of experience at the back. We have (Sam) Perrett, (Steve) Turner, (Krisnan) Inu who can all play there," he said.

"We are down a bit without Graham, Kasiano and Pritchard, but we have a lot of depth and players with experience of playing (on the) edge (of the ruck).

"There's Josh Jackson, Tony Williams and Dene Halatau.

"We have pretty good depth in the forwards. There's Marty Taupau, Dale Finucane, it's an enviable position and it has to be as we are up against the Australian front-row."

A brutal pre-season has Williams looking lean and he said he's put behind him the injury and suspension woes that marred his final season with Manly.

The NSW star said he's happy to be linking up with Hasler once again and credits him with turning him from a bulldozing but raw winger into one of the most damaging back-rowers in the NRL.

"He's still all about hard work and he's had me running and I've dropped a few kilos to get to my fighting weight," Williams said.

"He's brought out the best in me and heaps of players can probably say the same.

"I was a work in progress when I went to Manly and it took a while for me to get where I needed to be."

Williams has been named in the back-row for the Cowboys clash, but said he would have no problems with a spell at prop.

"I am happy to play wherever, back-row, front-row, five-eighth, anything to help the team," he said.




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