Inspirational skipper James Graham has fired Canterbury into top four contention with the Bulldogs proclaiming they’re the real deal.
Des Hasler’s side put on an impressive show of strength in their 40-14 rout of an Origin-affected Brisbane which served as a warning shot for the rest of the NRL.
With his side showing signs of peaking at the right time of the year, statistics show that Graham has been one of the competition’s most consistent performers in 2016.
Leading the league for total runs and second only behind North Queensland’s Jason Taumalolo for total run metres, according to Fox Sports Stats, Graham is in a rich vein of form.
After bulldozing through the Broncos, the former English Test captain has averaged 190 metres over his last four games.
He led from the front against last year’s losing grand finalists with the Bulldogs pack busting a combined 26 tackles against a side which was ranked in the top four for both least metres conceded and missed tackles.
“I definitely think if we we’re playing well then we’re up there,” said Aiden Tolman, who ran for a game-high 210m at ANZ Stadium on Saturday.
“We know that we can get some good footy when we get the chance. If we’re on top early, like we were in the game on the weekend, then it definitely gives us a chance.”
Their win over Brisbane brought them level with the fourth-placed Broncos on 20 points.
While they’ve been victims of their own inconsistency, it was yet another big scalp for the Dogs and should serve as a warning shot about their premiership chances.
“We played well against the Sharks a couple of weeks ago and we beat Melbourne down there,” Tolman said.
“We’ve had some really good games against top four teams but it hasn’t spurred us on yet.
“It’s definitely there, we know how we can play when we play good footy but I think our biggest problem this year is playing 80 minutes, that’s the closest we’ve come this year and it’s definitely pleasing.”