The Back-up Effect: NRL's toughest teams

Canberra might have won just two games so far this season but their impact on the competition is immense, with opposition teams having extreme difficulty backing up after playing the Raiders.<br><br>Along with the Bulldogs and Penrith, the Raiders are leaving their mark on their oppositions – a mark massive enough to cause concern for the Melbourne Storm, despite the fact they whipped the Green Machine last round.<br><br>NRL.com can reveal that in the week following a match-up with the Raiders, teams have managed only one win and suffered six losses. Just the Bulldogs have managed to back up with a win after playing Canberra – which ironically gives them the edge in this weekend’s massive showdown with the Storm.<br><br>The Bulldogs have well and truly returned to their tough old ways. Not only are they leading the NRL ladder with seven wins (and very unlucky not to have eight) but they are fitter, stronger and most definitely tougher than the side that leaked 32.6 points per game last year to claim the wooden spoon.<br><br>And in the immediate week following a game against the ’Dogs, NRL sides have fashioned just a 2-6 record, presumably hurting from the tough encounters.<br><br>“I wasn’t aware of that but it may well mean we are playing a brand of footy that is demanding on the opposition,” Bulldogs coach Kevin more tells NRL.com.<br><br>“I think people would have noticed that we are very competitive regardless of the result. Just look at last week against the Dragons: we are competitive, we are a fit side, with the old Bulldogs style that can go to the 80th minute. Whether we are down or in front we will fight to the bitter end, we’re never beaten.”<br><br>A pre-season fitness overhaul in the Bulldogs’ kennel can be attributed to the significant turnaround, along with the clean-out of personnel and a fresh attitude.<br><br>“We certainly revved up our fitness in the off-season,” Moore adds. “We made a number of changes to the way we did things. We employed an extra conditioner, so now Tony Grimaldi looks after speed and fitness side of things, and Harry Harris looks after strength and rehabilitation. <br><br>“So it is something we diverted extra funds and resources to, as we are aware how important it is in today’s game… <br>it was an area we were a bit deficient in last year.<br><br>“But there is a fitness side of things and there is also the spirit which we have worked really hard to rebuild around the place with new people coming. <br><br>“We have tried to make sure the camaraderie is great and the players are really happy and committed to being part of what this club is about. And that shows on the field when players are prepared to do whatever it takes to get a victory.”<br><br>Down in Canberra, assistant coach Ian Millward confirms that while the side is not at all impressed with their 2-7 start to the season, they can take a little comfort in the fact they are seemingly making life difficult for others.<br><br>“Except for last night against Melbourne we have been in the contest for every game. We just haven’t been consistent enough to win the crucial parts of the battle,” Millward says.<br><br>“We have a big forward pack and every game has been fairly intense; our only problem is ‘maintaining the rage’ for 80 minutes. I guess teams know they’ve played us at the end of the game – but that doesn’t help us on the competition ladder.”<br><br>The surprising part of these statistics is you can forget the likes of the Dragons, Broncos or Knights when it comes to tough physical games that gas a side’s energy tank – those three other table-topping teams may have beaten plenty this year, but also lifted their foes to back up strong the following week.<br><br>Opposition sides have a 7-2 winning record the week after facing the Broncos, throwing cold water on the notion Brisbane is a game which leaves you breathless. The Dragons’ opponents are 4-4 and the Knights’ 4-5.<br><br>Other teams who have failed to limit their opponents in the following week are the Gold Coast (7-1) and last year’s premiers Manly who have seen their rivals rack up a 7-2 win record the week after a battle with the champions.<br><br>So while teams have lifted to play the premiers, the Sea Eagles haven’t provided enough intensity for the opposition to falter the following round.<br><br><b>Win-loss record of teams’ opponents one week on...</b><br>Canberra 1-6; Bulldogs 2-6; Penrith 2-6; Roosters 3-4-1; Wests Tigers 3-3-1; Cronulla 3-5; Warriors 3-5; St George Illawarra 4-4; South Sydney 4-4; Newcastle 4-5; Melbourne 5-4; North Queensland 5-3; Parramatta 5-3; Brisbane 7-2; Manly 7-2, Gold Coast 7-1.