Bulldogs coach warns to be wary of mind games

BULLDOGS coach Des Hasler will be at pains to warn his players against being sucked in by any mind games his former club and finals rival Manly may pull in the lead-up to Saturday's elimination clash at Allianz Stadium.

Hasler knows Manly coach Geoff Toovey and his players almost as well as he knows his own players, having coached the Sea Eagles in more than 200 games and won four premierships with the club - two as a player and two as coach - before linking with the Bulldogs in 2012.

Comments by Sea Eagles fullback Brett Stewart, who plays his 200th game, that he doubted Manly could win without inspirational second-rower Anthony Watmough, backed up what Hasler was saying.

Watmough has taken an early guilty plea to a lifting tackle charge in the hope the Sea Eagles get past the Dogs this weekend and he can play against Penrith the following weekend for a chance to move into the grand final.

The Manly forward told his Twitter followers he had been given legal advice that there was too much risk in fighting the charge at tonight's judiciary.

If Manly loses, Watmough will not add to his 286 games for the club he started with in 2002.

"Choc (Watmough) has been one of our best forwards all year," said Stewart, who along with Kiwi centre Steve Matai is rumoured to be set to walk out on Manly.

Manly has battled player disharmony since releasing Stewart's brother Glenn, who will play for South Sydney next season.

The Sea Eagles are doing it tough without the dummy half services of Matt Ballin (fractured fibula) who organises most of their plays and set moves for Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran and drives their go forward.

There was talk out Brookvale way Ballin was an outside chance of playing on Saturday although it would be a massive gamble for Toovey to take, given the nature of Ballin's injury.

After being everyone's grand final tip six or seven weeks ago the critics have written Manly off following injuries and suspensions and an embarrassing 40-24 loss to South Sydney in the opening round of the finals last weekend.

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