Canterbury coach Des Hasler has dodged questions about whether NSW Origin halfback Trent Hodkinson will start ahead of either Josh Reynolds or Moses Mbye in Saturday’s NRL clash against Penrith.
Hodkinson is back with the Bulldogs after helping the Blues to victory over Queensland in Origin II at the MCG on Wednesday night.
However his club starting spot has come into question after Hasler replaced him with Josh Reynolds when the Bulldogs trailed during last week’s clash with St George Illawarra.
Impressive youngster Mbye has put pressure on established halves pair Hodkinson and Reynolds with outstanding form in recent weeks.
“I’m not much of a mathematician. Three into two. Solve it on a calculator,” Hasler suggested on Friday.
Told the answer was one-and-a-half but that there were only two jerseys, he said: “They can share the other half.”
The Bulldogs plan to assess the fitness of all five of their NSW origin contingent – Hodkinson, Brett and Josh Morris, David Klemmer and Josh Jackson – later on Friday.
But Hasler stressed they were in no urgency to rush them back against the Panthers.
“Because we’re only Round 15, so we don’t want to jeopardise long-term play for the rest of the year,” he said.
“Given that once Origin’s finished, there’s still a lot of footy to be played after Origin.
“So it’s crucial that we preserve their bodies and limit the risk of injury.
“That’s the tough assessment these days, backing up from Origin games.”
Josh Morris is the only real concern after revelations the strike centre almost pulled out of Origin on match-eve with back spasms.
“I think he might’ve got it during a training injury. That’s something we’ll monitor and need to have a look at,” Hasler said.
STATS THAT MATTER
– The Bulldogs have struggled with the Panthers for almost a decade, winning just five of 15 matches since 2007 – their worst record against any opponent in that period.
– Bulldogs skipper James Graham is missing through injury and the Bulldogs have not fared well in his absence. Since 2012 they have won five of 14 matches with Graham missing, including just two from six this season. With Graham in the side, they have won 50 of 79 matches, almost 65 per cent.
– Des Hasler will become just the second player/coach to have played over 250 matches and coached 300 games this week, joining his former mentor Bob Fulton.