Canterbury coach Des Hasler has challenged his side to rise for a testing month that begins on Friday night against NRL competition favourites the Sydney Roosters.
Three of the club’s next four matches are against teams in the top four, including ladder leaders Brisbane and defending premiers South Sydney.
Sitting in seventh spot on the ladder, the Bulldogs have the worst record against teams currently in the top eight, winning one from six games.
Hasler warned his team on the dangers of a congested table where six teams are separated by just four points.
“But more importantly, we’re not playing as well as we’d like and we need to make amends pretty quickly,” he said on Thursday.
“We’ve got Roosters on Friday, who are in impeccable form, (and the) Broncos, who are sitting on top of the competition.
“But at the same time, they’re challenges that teams need. We need to respond to that, and it starts this Friday.”
Making matters more difficult for Hasler’s men, second-rower Frank Pritchard (ribs) and winger Curtis Rona (knee) are likely non-starters from the team that was named earlier in the week.
Back-up utility Moses Mbye will stand in for the suspended Josh Reynolds.
While the Bulldogs will field an understrength team, the Roosters are aiming to secure a seventh straight win for the first time since their premiership-winning season of 2013.
With the exception of Shaun Kenny-Dowall, who remains out indefinitely as he battles a string of domestic abuse charges levelled at him by his former partner, the Roosters are at full strength.
Co-captain and halfback Mitchell Pearce will celebrate his 200th NRL game, becoming the youngest player to reach the milestone in NRL history.
STATS THAT MATTER
* The Roosters have dominated the second half against the Bulldogs over their past five matches, outscoring them 76-23 in this period.
* The Roosters’ winning margins have ascended during their winning streak, with margins of 4, 5, 10, 20, 24 and 25 points respectively.