Bulldogs out to end three-game slide
In the same way they didn't get carried away with a seven-game winning streak, Bulldogs prop James Graham says his teammates aren't going to get too focused on their current three-game slide.
Flying high on top of the NRL ladder just a fortnight ago, the club has now fallen to sixth spot and is clinging to their rung in the top eight. A loss to Canberra on Friday night could drop them another two spots ahead of next week's bye, however Graham insists the team isn't fazed.
"I don't think worried is the right term. We are disappointed, but it's a long season. Just like when we were coming first, we weren't talking about how good we were or celebrating," Graham said.
"We are no different now losing three games. It's not the end of the world. There's a lot of rugby league to be played and it's still a long season."
Part of the reason for the Bulldogs' freefall has been a ruthless period that has literally torn the heart out of Des Hasler's side. With halves pairing Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson helping lead NSW to a drought-breaking series win over the past six weeks, Hasler was forced into relying on hooker Mick Ennis and second-rower Josh Jackson in last week's 22-12 loss to Parramatta.
"Mick and Jacko did a good job and the other boys that played some unfamiliar roles," Graham said.
"As much as you don't practise it, you have to get on with it. You're not used to seeing players in certain positions in defence and attack, so it is a little foreign to us. We are professional players. Most of us have been in similar situations before. You just have to get on with it."
What hasn't been familiar to the former Super League player, is seeing first-hand his teammates backing up after their exhaustive commitments to the NRL's mid-season representative calendar. An avid Origin fan back home in England, Graham had heard of the courage displayed by the NRL stars, but now watches on in admiration.
"I'd always followed Origin and the NRL and read the reports [of] players missing the week before and the players backing up a couple of days after," he said.
"I always knew it was there. It's one of those things that, at the start of the season when we were successful and got on a winning streak, your halves and forwards in good form, you end up losing them.
"It's part of it. You're pleased for them. You would like them to be playing for us but that's just part of Origin and what it means for us.
"It must be very difficult for them to back up but the character of the type of people in that arena are the first ones to put their hands up to play. I have always had high admiration for them and what they do. The backing up side of things just makes it that more courageous. In sporting terms, to go through what they did last time and be asked to play 48 hours later is something else."
Reynolds and Hodkinson were spared the challenge of backing up after Origin I as their club enjoyed the bye, but will be asked to get up off the canvas for a trip to the nation's capital just two days after their historic win.
"They were still happy with the win [last time] so Josh and Trent were still riding that high. We had 10 games going into that Manly game. It'll be a different experience for them this week," he said.