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NRL finals are a fresh start: Hasler

Canterbury may have come off second best to elimination final opponents Newcastle twice this season, but coach Des Hasler says NRL finals are a different ball game.
NRL finals are a fresh start: Hasler
by AAP

By Emma Kemp

SYDNEY, Sept 12 AAP - Canterbury may have come off second best to elimination final opponents Newcastle twice this season, but coach Des Hasler says NRL finals are a different ball game.

The Bulldogs head into their clash with the Knights at ANZ Stadium on Sunday having copped a 44-8 pumping from the Knights back in May and an 18-12 defeat in July.

"Most sides view it at this stage now in finals, (that) what happened throughout the year probably doesn't count for much," Hasler said on Thursday.

"Most of the sides prepare and play and react in such a way that they play in the moment.

"Those two games are well and truly gone."

The odds are against the sixth-ranked Bulldogs going one better than last year's grand final berth by winning the title - no club in NRL history has won the premiership from outside the top four under the current finals format.

Hasler was confident his team could prove the statistics wrong as he prepared to field a near full-strength side after giant forward Sam Kasiano and elusive fullback Ben Barba made their returns from long injury layoffs last week.

However, there are some injury clouds still circling for forwards Frank Pritchard and Greg Eastwood.

Knee and groin problems threaten Pritchard's return following two weeks' suspension for a shoulder charge while Eastwood is still recovering from a broken hand.

"They're a very good chance of not playing," Hasler said.

"We've got the Sunday game so we'll give those players as much time as we can. But we want to take in a strong squad.

"Sam Kasiano came through well last week. So we've got a lot of experience.'




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