Dogs brace for Roosters backlash
Bulldogs players are bracing for an Origin-level backlash from dumped Blues pair Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney when the Roosters visit ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
Pearce was overlooked by NSW coach Laurie Daley after an expensive night on the tiles that cost him a club-imposed $20,000 fine and one-game ban.
Maloney, who has mirrored the inconsistent form showed by the defending premiers over the first 10 weeks of the season, stood little chance of keeping his spot without his scrumbase partner and was also left out.
So instead of being in camp at Coffs Harbour, preparing for next Wednesday's Origin opener at Suncorp, Pearce and Maloney will be out to prove their worth against the table-topping Bulldogs this weekend.
"These are the cards we're dealt and we'll have to deal with them," prop James Graham says. "We're preparing for the best Roosters team. Obviously they're missing a few but I'm sure they'll be people wanting to step in for them and be wanting to show their worth.
"Obviously Pearce and Maloney not playing Origin – I'm sure they'll be looking to prove a point to the selectors to make a case for why they weren't there."
Adds second-rower Josh Jackson: "They'll be wanting to hit back. They're both quality players, them two halves. We'll go out there and do our best and see how we go."
Winners of seven straight, the Bulldogs now enter the unfamiliar territory of having their squad decimated by Origin.
Together with Melbourne and North Queensland, the competition leaders have a competition-high four players away on Origin duty, a predicament coach Des Hasler has yet to face in his time at Belmore.
Rookie halfback Moses Mbye has been called in to fill the big boots of match-winning halfback Trent Hodkinson, while savvy veteran Reni Maitua plays his first game for the club as he steps in to the No.6 jumper.
"I'm hopeful that the [Origin] boys that are there now will stay there and maybe one or two others might sneak in the frame as well," Graham says.
"That's the nature of the beast. As a club and organisation I'm pleased for them to be in there and it opens the door for some other people. Moses Mybe played the other week, and I think he'll get a go in some capacity this week. There's a few other lads that are training hard, and knocking on the gaffa's door with the performance at NSW Cup and at training. They'll definitely be ready to step in when they get their chance."
Mbye made his debut in Round 8 against the Knights, the club who fought desperately for his signature before the former under-20s captain re-signed with the club in March.
"He's a very versatile player. We've seen him play in the centres for his debut. I think he plays a bit of fullback and in the halves," says teammate Tim Browne.
"It'll be interesting to see. I think he'll do a really good job. He's got a really good kicking game and his passing is selective, he's calm and sensible."