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Hassler is inspired by previous imports

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: July 06, 2013

New boy Jeff Hassler is keen to make a mark at the Liberty this season.

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CELINE Dion, Michael Buble and Justin Bieber may be near the top of any list of famous Canadians, but for the Ospreys' new wing import from Alberta, the achievements of Gareth Rees, Rod Snow, John Tait and Dan Baugh should not be forgotten.

The quartet all managed to achieve what Jeff Hassler will be to aiming to do over the next three seasons, namely make a huge success out of playing rugby in Wales.

Rees is Canada's most famous rugby player of all time, securing his place in Maple Leaf legend by kicking the winning conversion that secured their 26-24 victory over Wales in 1993. The son of former Maesteg player Alan Rees, he went on to score 603 points from 47 appearances for Newport. His time in Wales was an unqualified success.

Much the same could be said of the stints put in by Tait, Snow and Baugh, three stalwarts who settled out east and made a significant impression, with Baugh involved in the Welsh national team's coaching set-up.

It is asking a lot for Hassler to get anywhere near where that lot set the bar, but the 21-year-old is suitably inspired as he starts a three-year spell with the Ospreys.

Before the youngster came over to Wales, Rees even gave the four-cap player words of encouragement.

"Gareth is a legend of Canadian rugby and he told me what a great opportunity this was because the Ospreys are good every year and are always competing at the top level," said Hassler.

"Whether I participate straight away or develop, he said the time over here would only be good for me and for Canadian rugby.

"With people like Gareth and the others, there's a ton of connections between Canada and Wales at rugby. Two of the national team's coaches, Geraint John and Clive Griffiths, are also Welsh.

"I just want to do as well as I can.

"The first game I played for Canada Under-17s was against the Ospreys at the Liberty, so it's been a full 360 degrees coming back here and being part of it all over again."

Hassler doesn't claim to be the finished article, but he has played international rugby and he is likely to be called on early in the season with Hanno Dirksen injured.

The Ospreys have Eli Walker on one wing and could ask Tom Habberfield, Ross Jones or Ben John to figure out wide, as they did last season, but those three are not specialist wings, meaning there could be an opportunity for Hassler to show what he can do.

"I'd say I'm more of a go-forward, direct ball-carrier who likes to be physical and play with power," said Hassler.

"The Ospreys have some good wings, but I'm assuming that if they brought me over as a power runner, they are looking to be a bit more dynamic out wide, and, hopefully, I can bring that to them.

"We'll just see how it goes."

Hassler is following in the footsteps of some illustrious names at the Ospreys, with wings Shane Williams and Tommy Bowe having represented the region with distinction.

"It's something to live up to," he laughed.

"There may be a bit of pressure, but I just want to develop and become a top-level player myself.

"The main goal is to do myself justice and help the team.

"If I can get to play in a tournament like the Heineken Cup I will feel I have made a big step in my career."

Hailing from Okotoks in Alberta, Hassler caught the eye with his form in a sevens tournament and the Ospreys' coaches believe he can be developed.

"They spoke to Geraint John and it went from there," he added. "It just seemed like it would be a good fit for me.

"As soon as the press release about the signing went out, there were tons and tons of Ospreys supporters welcoming me. So far, everyone has been super-good. It's been an easy transition."

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