Des Hasler, for the first time since taking over at Canterbury, took a sick day.
Which meant he dodged all the inevitable questions in what may have been his final Bulldogs pre-match press conference about whether Sunday would be the last time he coaches the blue and whites.
So it was left to his assistant, Jim Dymock, to front the media.
While the ink is still drying on the two-year contract extension Hasler recently signed, it appears increasingly likely he will be speared in the off-season. Which raised the question: would Dymock be keen to replace Hasler is such a scenario unfolded?
“Definitely,” Dymock said. “I have aspirations of being a head coach. To be head coach of a side that I’ve spilled blood for would be an honour for me. I’d definitely put my hand up.
“If that opportunity comes, I feel I’m ready. I’ve been coaching for 13 years so I think I’ve put the time in.
“I think we’re getting a bit ahead of ourselves at the moment. I’m just worrying about the game tomorrow.”
Hasler’s future has been a talking point from the moment Canterbury legend Steve Mortimer told Fairfax Media the club was “losing our DNA” under the former Manly mentor. That happened last October. Since then the Bulldogs have missed the finals and blown the salary cap to such an extent that it’s likely skipper James Graham will have to be one of the players moved on to accommodate new buys Kieran Foran and Aaron Woods.
Adding further intrigue is the fact that Canterbury board elections are being held in February, where it is likely incumbent directors will be thrown out of Belmore if Hasler isn’t. If officials are looking for a coach that understands the intangible that is the culture of the “Family Club”, then Dymock fits the bill. The former NSW and n international made 71 appearances for the Bulldogs, including a grand final-winning one in which he earned Clive Churchill medal honours. His own future is yet to be decided given he is off contract and yet to be offered a new one.
Dymock had to answer the tough questions in Hasler’s absence. Perhaps not for the last time.
“Six years I’ve been working with Des and I can honestly say he’s had the sniffles every now and then but it’s the first time he hasn’t turned up for a training session,” Dymock said.
“I don’t think it’s strange, he’s had a few family commitments as well, someone has been sick in the family as well. I don’t think it’s strange, it is what it is.
“Definitely [he will be present to coach against the Dragons on Sunday], even if he has no voice he will be miming away, we’ll understand what he’s saying. All the work has been done and the boys know what we need to do tomorrow.”
The Canterbury board is scheduled to convene for a board meeting which could decide Hasler’s fate.
“That’s a tough thing for a lot of the staff and a few of the players, the uncertainty of next year, what’s going on,” Dymock said.
“I think the board has got a meeting next Tuesday or something like that. Hopefully they can sort something out and we can just get on with it.”
Hasler’s coaching record remains one of the best in the game. He has won two premierships with Manly, guided the Bulldogs to two grand finals and boasts a win rate of 58 per cent. However, the Bulldogs only just scraped into the finals last year and missed out altogether in 2017, with his side seemingly in decline. It is a transitional time for the club, which could soon have a new coach, CEO, skipper and board.
Asked if Hasler should be nervous about getting sacked, Dymock replied: “Mate, Des is never nervous about stuff like that. He’s very confident in what he does. The last six years he’s been here, he has a great win rate so he’s probably one of the best in the competition. If you take that into consideration and also the two grand finals we made, it makes for a pretty good six years.”