Sloppy Dogs still a title threat
Bulldogs back-rower Greg Eastwood insists Canterbury have the roster to give the 2014 Finals Series an almighty shake despite a bizarre one-point loss to the Titans at Cbus Super Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
With their 19-18 loss and the Panthers' 22-6 victory over the Warriors the Bulldogs finished the regular season in seventh position and have a Week One assignment against the Storm in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon at AAMI Park.
The Bulldogs delivered their most stirring defensive display of the season in a 6-4 win in Melbourne in Round 18 but go into this clash with six losses from their past eight games and with the embarrassment of letting an 18-point lead slip against the Titans.
In a boost to their finals prospects Canterbury welcomed Josh Reynolds and Frank Pritchard back into the team on Sunday and Eastwood says there is no reason that they can't recapture the form they displayed earlier in the year and ride it all the way through to the Grand Final.
"For us we've just got to win four weeks in a row now and you could win the Grand Final so we've just got to take it week by week and see how we go," Eastwood told NRL.com.
"We've done seven earlier in the year but it's a whole new ball game. Teams have got all their players back on deck and fresh and looking forward to the challenges.
"It's a whole new ball game now and we've just got to get in there tomorrow and look at that game and work real hard and get back on track. It's not going to be easy playing Melbourne in Melbourne so we've just got to look forward to that and go from there.
"It will be intense, finals games you know what you're going to get. It's the top eight and you have to be on your game for the full 80 to get a win so everybody will have to work hard at training and work on those errors that cost us [against the Titans]."
It was a mixed return from a three-week suspension from Reynolds whose energy was a major factor in the Bulldogs' three first half tries but then he came up with an extraordinary brain-snap on the stroke of half-time that while didn't prove costly at the time, gave an indicator of the Bulldogs' head space.
Pritchard came up with two storming runs as soon as he was introduced in the second half and Eastwood said it was a massive bonus to have two players of such quality back in the team.
"It does [give you a lift]. It's always good to have a player like Frank Pritchard coming back into the team and he's been out for a while and that match fitness tonight would have helped him," said Eastwood, who has a record of four wins from nine finals appearances with the Broncos and Bulldogs. "He's just finding its feet so it's good to have him back on board.
"Yeah you could say that [continuity has been lacking], bringing blokes in and out, but we knew that was the case. That's footy and a lot of teams have had the same so we've just got to work on that. Having 'Grub' back tonight and Frankie gives us a boost and they'll be working hard to get a win next week."