QUICK EXIT: Bulldogs fans are entitled to ask if coach Des Hasler's message is getting through.
QUICK EXIT: Bulldogs fans are entitled to ask if coach Des Hasler's message is getting through. PAUL MILLER

Has Mad Professor outgrown Doggies?

ANYONE with any semblance of knowledge on rugby league would never doubt the coaching credentials, or ability, of Des Hasler. To use a well-worn cliche, his record speaks for itself.

Since his NRL coaching debut at Manly in 2004, Hasler-coached teams have missed the finals just once - and that was in his first year at Brookvale.

In the intervening 13 seasons, Hasler has won two premierships and his teams have been beaten grand finalists four times - an outstanding record at any level, in any sport.

But while that impressive CV says much about the ability of Hasler to get his teams to finals, some may suggest his conversion rate of two from 13 is not great.

And those critics may be right.

Known as the Mad Professor for some of his innovative coaching techniques, off-beat dietary and supplement suggestions and his often eccentric media exchanges, Hasler is no doubt very different to the archetypal NRL coach.

And while no coaching personality blueprint exists, after last weekend's dismal failure against the Panthers are Bulldogs fans entitled to ask if his eccentricity still works with that playing group? Has their coach run his course at Belmore?

Despite the fact the Bulldogs again made the finals, there is little doubt they were one of the big disappointments of 2016.

Theirs was a roller-coaster season, highlighted by the fact they scraped into the finals in seventh spot, on the back of three losses in a row and a golden-point win.

A roster boasting 10 internationals suggests they should have done better.

They aren't the only team about which questions will be asked, and Hasler isn't the only coach under a spotlight, but failure is not part of the Bulldogs' DNA. And finishing seventh with that roster is a failure.

Hasler is apparently negotiating a contract extension until the end of 2019, which would mean eight years in charge at the Dogs.

While that may seem a long tenure, it isn't at Belmore. Chris Anderson spent eight years at the helm before being succeeded by his brother-in-law, Steve Folkes, for 11 seasons.

If Hasler does stay, it's odds-on his coaching approach will need to change.

The forward-orientated game that was successful a couple of years ago simply isn't working any more - not for the Dogs in 2016, anyway.

And the frustration at that plan not working is obvious among the players, and with Hasler.

His confrontation with Tony Williams last weekend was most revealing, as was the aggro on-field tete-a-tete between Moses Mybe and Michael Lichaa. And James Graham and Josh Reynolds always act frustrated.

Hasler will more than likely stay and change the way they play. And then Bulldogs fans can again proudly broadcast Who Let the Dogs Out.



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