Bulldogs face new NRL premiership test

Despite coach Des Hasler’s insistence they fly under the radar, Canterbury’s playing group accept their premiership credentials face another stern test this weekend.

Fresh from claiming outright premiership favouritism following last week’s impressive 20-12 victory over defending NRL premiers Manly, the Bulldogs host the high-flying North Queensland on Saturday.

But key Bulldogs insist that while this week may be even more difficult to prepare for than the Sea Eagles clash, there will be no hangover from that bruising match.

“It’s going to be harder,” fullback Ben Barba said. “We’re going from a tough match against a great Manly side but we all knew we had to come in here on Monday and start our focus on the Cowboys because they’re going pretty well as well.

“It’s going to be another tough game for us. We don’t need any motivation.

“Winning is enough motivation. We’ve just got to keep working our guts off and try and get the Ws.”

The club is intent on flying into the finals despite still feeling the effects of the Manly match with prop Sam Kasiano (cheekbone, four weeks) and halfback Kris Keating (hamstring) unfit to face Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen at ANZ Stadium.

Keating was named on Tuesday to wear the No.7 jersey but is expected to be ruled out and replaced by utility Joel Romelo. “Their two props (Matt Scott and James Tamou) are definitely up their with the best in the game,” five-eighth Josh Reynolds, who will take on a bigger attacking role without Keating, said.

“I know our forwards are definitely going to have to be on their toes.

“They’re going to be coming at us all day, especially losing big Sammy.

“… We definitely had our heads set on that game (against Manly), but the best thing about this team is we can leave that and move on to this week.”

A Cowboys victory could vault the Queenslanders into second spot on the ladder, providing plenty of incentive for Neil Henry’s men.

“They’re playing some great footy and have got some great players in their team, a number of Origin representatives (and) probably the best player in the game in Thurston,” bench prop Corey Payne said.

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