South Sydney superstar Sam Burgess is not expected to make a miracle comeback but in Canterbury coach Des Hasler’s estimation that changes little about the Good Friday NRL blockbuster.
There has been speculation Burgess would play for what shapes as a huge match following last year’s explosive corresponding game.
Burgess was released from hospital on Tuesday after being treated for a neck injury in the Rabbitohs’ 8-6 loss to St George Illawarra at the SCG on Sunday.
Englishman Burgess has told coach Michael Maguire he wants to return against the Bulldogs but the Rabbitohs mentor expects to have the star forward back the following week against Manly.
Hasler claimed Burgess’ absence would change little, nominating Paul Carter, who has been excellent as he continues to rebuild his career at Redfern, as the man to pick up the slack.
Carter was on Wednesday night cleared to take on the Dogs after having a cannonball tackle charge downgraded at the NRL judiciary.
The Canterbury coach doesn’t expect to see Burgess run out at ANZ Stadium.
“You never know, (Burgess) is obviously dedicated enough but I think duty of care will take precedence, I don’t think he’ll take the field,” Hasler said on Thursday.
“But I think young Carter getting off last night, that helps them quite a bit, he’s been playing some good footy.
“They’ve been playing really up the middle and grafting and grinding away and we don’t expect that to change too much whether Sam’s there or not.”
After being sacked by the Gold Coast in late 2014, Carter was handed a lifeline by Maguire and has been excellent in the opening three rounds.
The 23-year-old continued his strong form against the Dragons, making 52 tackles in an 80-minute effort.
After looking like a well-drilled unit the first two rounds, the Bulldogs’ attack was found wanting in their 20-6 loss to Parramatta last week, leaving Hasler to lament missed opportunities.
But he said there wasn’t too much wrong and expected the polish to come for halves Moses Mbye and Josh Reynolds as the season wore on.