Barking mad: Des still in doghouse with fans
RHYSE Martin has warned he can "see the fans getting right into" Saturday's grudge match with Des Hasler as Canterbury stalwart Aiden Tolman said fans were still reeling from their former coach's controversial Belmore departure more than 18 months ago.
Tolman, in his ninth year with the Bulldogs, understands why a win against a Hasler-led Manly will mean more than any other victory this season.
"Our fans and our members are very passionate people, they want to win every weekend," Tolman said.
"I suppose when things happened at the club that was out of their control and they just turn up week in, week out … it's hard when you aren't told the full story either and you have hear it in the media."
Back-rower Martin, who was signed by Hasler but debuted under Dean Pay in round nine last year, described Hasler's time at Belmore as a "love/hate relationship" in the eyes of supporters.
"I caught the last year of Des, it was a tough time with him here at the club," he said.
"I guess there is a love-hate relationship there with him. For me, personally, I'm glad I missed most of that."
Canterbury's salary cap mismanagement under the club's old administration while Hasler was at the helm between 2012-2017 wasn't only a "tough time" for players, it has left a sour taste in the mouths of fans.
The aftermath led to a string of players, including David Klemmer, Moses Mbye and Aaron Woods, being released from their contracts or, in the case of Josh Reynolds and James Graham, moved on from the club entirely.
Even Tolman, a player who has a strong relationship with Hasler, faced an uncertain future as the fallout of the salary cap drama trickled into season 2018. With the club desperate to find some extra cash in their cap, there was speculation Tolman was being shopped around.
The 30-year old said the lack of job security at the time made it harder for the team to compete on the field in 2018.
"We had two years of every player being shopped around, it wasn't just me," Tolman said.
"It showed last year, once we lost guys like Aaron Woods and Moses Mbye, who are representative players, who we didn't want to let them go, but once we lost them we started winning footy games and it shows if off the field too.
"When there is no talk [about contracts] then players can focus on their job on the field and I think it showed for us last year."
Martin, who was 25 when he made his top-grade debut, was given a second chance at an NRL career by Hasler. He is taking a philosophical approach to Saturday's match at Lottoland.
"You can't hold grudges in this game, you never know where you are going to be," he said.
"You never know who you are going to run into or who is going to save your career.
"A lot of the players have a lot of respect for Des and he did do a lot of good things for the boys that were here under him. But I can see the fans getting right into it [grudge match]."