7th Tackle: Dogs in battle with NRL rival to retain Lichaa

Josh Massoud and Liam Cox

Michael Lichaa’s late season form explosion appears to be the final nail in the coffin of beleaguered Bulldogs coach Des Hasler.

Directly disobeying Hasler’s instructions to pass from dummy half, Lichaa discovered career best form over the final three weeks by running the ball when opportunities presented themselves.

Hasler's conservative attacking approach with Lichaa stems from his desire for the hooker to play plenty of minutes and make plenty of tackles.

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In other words, Hasler doesn’t want him expending valuable energy running the ball. But that’s precisely Lichaa’s strength.

Unlike Robbie Farah or Cameron Smith, he’s not a playmaker-type No. 9.

Lichaa. Pic: Getty

When Lichaa got his recall to first grade in Round 24, following a calf injury to Josh Reynolds, he decided to throw caution to the wind in a bid to audition for a new contract.

If that meant directly defying Hasler’s game plan, so be it.

Few could say the Bulldogs suffered for his cavalier approach, with Lichaa collecting two out three man-of-the-match awards.

After farewelling him alongside Josh Reynolds and Sam Kasiano, the Bulldogs hierarchy are now having misgivings.

Lichaa has this week been told a new offer is suddenly in the works – he just needs to be patient and wait for the club to release more players and become cap complaint.

How long Lichaa is prepared to wait will depend on the Dragons – the team he destroyed last Sunday.

St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor desperately wants him in Wollongong to share the hooking duties with Cameron McInnes for 2018.

And as for Hasler? The Bulldogs maintain there will be no decisions this week, with the coach still completing player reviews for 2017.

But it now appears simply a matter of time before both parties come to a mutually agreeable separation.