Matt Encarnacion, Western Sydney Correspondent, NRL.com
It's all hands on deck out at Belmore as the Bulldogs battle Origin, injuries and a mini-slump in form as they look to avoid a three-game slide against Parramatta on Sunday.
Their halves pairing are away on Origin duty; their main strike weapon is sitting on the sidelines; while on Sunday they'll have a second-rower lining up at five-eighth and another in the centres.
But veteran fullback Sam Perrett says it's not yet panic stations, although he does admit this is easily his most challenging period as a Bulldog since arriving midway through 2012.
"To this degree, yeah," Perrett said on Wednesday. "We've had a couple of players out, especially in the halves, key areas. It's a new challenge for me personally. Since I've been here, definitely."
Last week's shoddy 32-10 effort in the pigpen that was Brookvale Oval was disappointing, and Perrett said the players have worked overtime since then to rectify some pretty obvious areas that are in quick need of improvement.
"It's been a few areas I think that we've fallen short a little bit. Our defence is one of them. We've let in quite a few tries over the last couple of games," he said.
"But we know where we went wrong and we know what we need to do to get better. Playing against Parramatta is going to be a perfect challenge for us because they've got a lot of points in their side. It's going to be the perfect test for us."
Especially since Perrett believes the Eels are in a place where the Bulldogs were a month ago – high on confidence, and low on self-doubt. Their 18-16 cliffhanger against the Cowboys last Friday night proved that the Bulldogs' opponents this week have more than form on the board.
"As most players know – and as we've experienced this year – you get that momentum and certain things just come off for you," he said.
"I've seen a few of their plays, and they definitely have that momentum and the bounce of the ball just goes their way sometimes just because of their mindset and the way they're feeling. That's going to be a battle for us, and it comes down to who basically can have that mentality better on the weekend."
With the Bulldogs short on centres, coach Des Hasler has been forced into pitting second-rower Josh Jackson against an in-form Willie Tonga – an assignment Jackson says he'll approach like he does any other game.
"If he plays, yeah, it'll be interesting," he said. "It'll be good. Just a new challenge. I'm doing pretty much the same thing, only wider."
Jackson, of course, was also away from Belmore in the lead-up to Origin I after being named by Blues coach Laurie Daley as 18th man and joining the side in camp up in Coffs Harbour. The 23-year-old said he had learnt a lot from the experience.
"Being up at the game, it was a brutal game. And just feeding off the boys' energy and just getting that idea of the Origin mentality and the physicality of the game and what you've got to take into games like that. It was a good experience for me and I know what it's all about now," he said.
"It's just the mentality of it, you know? You've got to go out there every game, put your hand up and do your best. You run as hard as you can and tackle as hard as you can, and that's basically it. The team that does it for the longest, wins. That's what it all about."