For Des Hasler it’s not just about the size of the fight in the Dogs, it is about the size of the Dogs in the fight.
Under Hasler, Canterbury will again boast the largest forward pack in the NRL in 2016 despite alterations to the interchange rules that some expect will significantly change the way those players up front are deployed.
Because that is just the way Des likes it, according to captain James Graham who says the Bulldogs will again employ the power game up front in 2016 that has made them a force to be reckoned with since the coach joined the club five seasons ago.
“When you have guys like Sam Kasiano, David Klemmer and Tony Williams isn’t that the way you would play?” Graham said.
“It is something that has been successful for us. It is something we have enjoyed and it is the way we will look to play again this year.”
Size is one of the Bulldogs biggest strengths, but so too is their team spirit.
“In 2015 the side never gave up, it never laid down and it never capitulated,” said Hasler.
“The same attitude is not unlike some of the other sensational football teams in this club’s great history. That is the very attitude that I think 2016 offers: great hope and great expectation.
“Our whole off season has been underwritten with purposefulness and great desire.”
With NSW halfback Trent Hodkinson gone to Newcastle the onus will be on Josh Reynolds and Moses Mbye to spark the Dogs attack.
Reynolds himself is ready to take control.
“Last year coming off surgeries I was worried about just getting back, whereas this year I’ve just worried about my game and it all adds up,” Reynolds said.
“I’m realising more and more that it’s about your preparation so if I get my head around that I’ll be happy to step up and be the controlling player. When I was younger I used to be the controlling player believe it or not, as years went on I was just playing free-flowing footy.
“Hopefully I can find that balance this year. Trent’s gone now and sometimes if I don’t call anything then nothing is called.
“It’s just about building for us.”
Premierships: 8 – 1938, 1942, 1980, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1995, 2004
Finishes over the past three seasons: 2015 – semi-finalists, 2014 – grand finalists, 2013 – elimination finalists
Coach: Des Hasler
Captain: James Graham
Gains: Will Hopoate (Parramatta), Brad Abbey (Warriors), Kerrod Holland (Newcastle), Craig Garvey (St George Illawarra).
Losses: Trent Hodkinson (Newcastle), Frank Pritchard (Hull FC), Corey Thompson (Widnes), Damien Cook (South Sydney), Tim Lafai (St George Illawarra).
Strengths: The game’s biggest and most imposing forward pack with two props in James Graham and Aidan Tolman capable of playing big minutes, which could prove vital under the new interchange rules.
Weakness: Josh Reynolds and Moses Mbye form an untried halves combination. There are big question marks over whether they have the attacking spark and kicking games to regularly trouble the top sides.
Brett Morris, Curtis Rona, Josh Morris, Will Hopoate, Sam Perrett, Josh Reynolds, Moses Mbye, James Graham (capt), Michael Lichaa, Aiden Tolman, Josh Jackson, Tony Williams, Greg Eastwood. Interchange: David Klemmer, Sam Kasiano, Shaun Lane, Tim Browne
Predicted finish: 10th