Canterbury coach Des Hasler has challenged his men to shake off the frustrating inconsistencies that have plagued their opening two months of the NRL season.
Since starting their campaign with two strong victories, the perennial title contenders have alternated wins with losses and are now in danger of dropping out of the top eight for the first time this year.
Hasler admitted their fluctuating form was a concerning trend the team needed to individually address ahead of Saturday’s match against an underrated Gold Coast unit.
“It’s isolating it and not let that frustration manifest into something that’s going to be ongoing,” Hasler said on Friday.
“We’ve critiqued a few things and really, it’s about a real individual responsibility as well, so we’ve worked hard at that.”
After spending the past fortnight on the road, the Bulldogs return home to host the Titans, who have proven to be Hasler’s bogey team in recent years, winning four of their previous five matches.
Many were quick to write off Neil Henry’s side in the pre-season, but not Hasler.
“We rate them. They’ve beaten us every year, so of course we rate them,” he said.
“I just think everything is just a real cause about what they’re doing. Neil Henry and the staff up there have done a terrific job. They’ve been ultra competitive this year, the Titans.”
Hasler confirmed James Graham and Aiden Tolman would be in the run-on team after his experiment to start them on the bench against the Warriors last week backfired.
However with the representative season fast-approaching, the two-time premiership-winning mentor admitted he may re-consider rotating his line-up.
“It depends on injuries and how things are going. It’s just something you’ve got to play by ear,” he said.
Greg Bird returns for the Titans after a one-week suspension, while Kierran Moseley comes onto the bench for Daniel Mortimer. Rookie playmaker Cameron Cullen is also on standby for Ashley Taylor, who was taken to hospital during the week with stomach pains.
For the Bulldogs, Lloyd Perrett and Craig Garvey are expected to fall off the extended bench.
STATS THAT MATTER
* The Bulldogs have lost all three “home” games this season, including matches at Wellington and Belmore. They have not lost their first four home games since 1958.
* Canterbury have the best red zone defence of any team this year, conceding one try for every 25 tackles inside their 20 metre line.
* Should the Bulldogs lose to the Titans on Saturday, the Titans will become just the second team, along with the Dragons, Des Hasler has a losing record against.