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Embattled Canterbury coach Kevin Moore is standing defiant in the face of growing criticism of his side’s form, claiming speculation over his future was part and parcel of the job and insisting the Bulldogs are well placed to make a run into the finals over the second half of the season.

Moore has been reluctant to comment at length over rumours that he and captain Andrew Ryan could both be shown the door at the end of the year following Saturday night’s disastrous 38-4 capitulation against Manly – their fourth loss in five games.

It also continued a worrying trend for the Bulldogs of – until Wests Tigers leapfrogged them into seventh spot following last night’s win over Newcastle – having failed to beat any of the sides above them on the ladder in 2011.

Canterbury downed the Tigers in Round 1 but they have since lost five from five against their top-eight rivals.

Asked about the events of the past few days, Moore told “That’s just rugby league mate – everyone goes through the same thing at one time or another… you just need to get on with the job.”

However, Moore insisted that he was relatively pleased with what the Bulldogs had shown during the early rounds this year and described suggestions that they couldn’t trouble the top sides as a furphy.

“I think we just need to keep building and improving,” he said. “To make the finals we’re going to have to put some good performances together but I think we showed only a month ago against St George (the Dragons won 15-10), in what I thought was a high-quality game, what we’re capable of.

“They were outstanding in the first 40 minutes and we nearly came home over the top of them so I think the boys have enough confidence there to know that if we keep improving we can match it with anyone.

“Obviously the Manly performance was very disappointing – all the coaches and players were disappointed – so we need to turn that around.

“But we don’t want to get too down on ourselves. Manly were white-hot and we were poor.

“We need to learn from it but then we need to put it behind us.”

Inconsistency has been the bane of the Bulldogs in recent weeks, with poor performances against Brisbane, Canberra and Manly interspersed with far better efforts against the Dragons and Gold Coast.

A key area of concern has been the side’s right-side defence – where Andrew Ryan, Jamal Idris and Steve Turner typically defend – which has leaked twice as many tries as the left this season, with Moore admitting there was work to do.

But he also pointed to the loss of props Aiden Tolman and Mickey Paea to injury in recent weeks, and the suspension of halfback Trent Hodkinson, as having dented the Bulldogs’ progress.

“There are certainly some areas we need to work on and some of those areas we got found out on at the weekend have been an issue for us in the first 12 or 13 rounds of the competition,” he said.

“The last few weeks we’ve just been going through a bit of a tough period. We’ve hit one of those tough times where all clubs tend to go through at some stage during the season.

“We’ve been missing a few personnel. We’re a bit short on a few front-rowers and missing Trent suspended. All clubs have got to deal with that and it’s not an excuse but it’s just a tough period that we’ve got to get through.”

Moore was also quick to praise Idris, who was controversially overlooked for State of Origin selection again on Sunday night in favour of Sea Eagles youngster Will Hopoate.

“His form this year – even on the weekend he was one of our blokes that really showed some aggression. He was probably one of our better performers,” Moore said.

“So I haven’t seen anything [to suggest he has been affected by missing selection in both games so far].

“That’s one of his strengths. He handles situations fairly well. He is obviously disappointed and he would love nothing more than to be pulling on that blue jersey but I suppose the benefit from our point of view is that we get him leading up to that next game and he’ll be fresh after the Origin.

“We get an advantage out of that and I think Jamal is realistic to know that if he hasn’t been selected he just needs to put his head down and work hard and one day it will come for him.”
Moore said he was confident the Bulldogs would get their season back on track over the coming weeks, with a bye this weekend followed by games against Cronulla, Wests Tigers and Penrith.

“The bye has probably come at a good time for us because we’re struggling a little bit physically with having a few blokes out injured,” he said.

“We hope to get quite a few of those back – we’ve got the bye this weekend and then aim up against Cronulla in a couple of weeks fresh and ready to go.

“There are certainly some individuals I would like to see find some more consistent form both week to week and across the 80 minutes as well over the remainder of the season.

“I think we all recognise that we have a number of new guys in the squad – a handful of young fellas. It does take time to build those combinations and for those young guys to get used to the rigours of the NRL week in, week out. But certainly there are areas we need to improve in and we should be getting better as a team as the season goes on.”