Bulldogs no longer flying under the radar
Mon, 25 Jun 2012 2:43a.m.
The old "flying under the radar" line will no doubt be uttered again by eccentric Canterbury coach Des Hasler.
But it seems he will need to think up a new mantra after his Bulldogs stamped their NRL premiership credentials with a convincing 20-4 win over leaders Melbourne on Sunday.
Indeed Hasler's Bulldogs are as conspicuous as Canterbury fullback Ben Barba is in his hometown of Mackay after downing the competition heavyweights in the north Queensland city to extend their winning streak to five straight.
Still, Hasler tried to play down his Barba-inspired side after they cut Melbourne's competition lead to four points with a classy four-tries-to-one effort in wet, windy conditions.
In classic Hasler-speak, the Dogs coach recently claimed his side were at "the bottom of the yardstick".
Asked if they had now gone up a few notches, Hasler says: "I think you have to look at the timing of it all, the situation of the competition at the moment.
"They (Melbourne) are without Billy Slater, in the middle of the Origin grind."
But in what would be the closest Hasler has ever come to giving his side a rap, the Dogs coach quickly adds: "It was a good result".
Bulldogs coach Michael Ennis was more complimentary after his side overcame the loss of forward Greg Eastwood in the pre-game warm-up to inflict only the third loss on Melbourne this season.
"Every time you play Melbourne it is a tough grind, they have been the benchmark for many seasons," Ennis says.
"We are still a young side, improving. But to come up against a quality side on the road and come away with two points is pleasing.
"It's the time of year you need to get as many points as you can to give yourselves a shot at the back end."
Barba revelled in the public adoration of his hometown to score the opening try and set up another two including a remarkable length-of-the-field effort capped by Josh Morris in the 75th minute.
But it was the Bulldogs' defence that proved the difference.
However, Storm coach Craig Bellamy hinted there may have been other factors - namely the video referee disallowing a Ryan Hinchcliffe try in the 53rd minute due to a Bryan Norrie obstruction and a late call to replace the match ball.
Bellamy and Storm captain Cameron Smith both appeared upset that officials only told them an hour before kick-off that they were not using the special "Women of League" footballs that they had trained with all week.
"This is not a whinge by us but we had some pink balls to train with and then all of a sudden before the game we are told we are not - I think it is because (Dragons') Jamie Soward had a gripe after Friday night's game," Bellamy says.
"To me that is really strange (decision)."
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