Canterbury skipper James Graham believes his side can’t afford to carry one of its three key playmakers on the bench heading into the business end of the NRL season.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler has rotated his scrumbase combination between Josh Reynolds, Trent Hodkinson and rising talent Moses Mbye for most of the year, with one often played off the bench.
However Graham reckons the utility position is now a luxury in the modern game.
“I don’t really think, the way the game is now, we can afford to carry one on the bench. It’s more of a luxury thing,” he said on NRL 360.
“Most weeks, that’s not going to work for you. You need the four forwards on the bench.”
Reynolds, a former NSW Origin five-eighth, has missed the past fortnight due to suspension and isn’t expected to return until round 25 as he recovers from a knee problem.
And his absence has given a free kick to his two teammates, who combined superbly when the side upset ladder-leaders Brisbane last Friday.
Graham said Reynolds’ comeback would provide Hasler with a difficult decision to make with the finals around the corner.
“At the minute we’ve got Trent and Moses in there and they’ve been going really well,” he said.
“Josh is due back in 2-3 weeks, so it’ll be interesting to see where he goes.
“As we’ve seen, injuries and suspensions can you hit you at any time. So it’d be great for us if we could have all three ready to play.”
Former Bulldogs captain Michael Ennis disagreed with Graham’s comments, arguing that the club’s current group of forwards had the ability to play big minutes and that Reynolds could be an influential player in September.
“If you go with Mbye on the fact that (Canterbury) have been winning the last few weeks, then Josh can come in and add a real energy and excitement to a side that is heading into a period where a player like Josh Reynolds, an x-factor, can really open up a finals series when it becomes just that grinding style of football,” he said.