Jamal Idris will have the task of stopping one of the most explosive centres in the game - and former teammate - Tim Lafai on Saturday night.

Idris tackles former apprentice Lafai

Six years ago he was the man charged with showing youngster Tim Lafai the ropes – now Jamal Idris has the responsibility of stopping him. 

The in-form Bulldogs centre has made a mammoth 30 tackle breaks in his past five games, just a small sample that proves why the 23-year-old enters this week's preliminary finals as one of the hottest players in the competition. 

And Idris, who debuted with the Bulldogs in 2008, can take part of the credit. 

"I still remember Timmy when he was 17, 18 years old. He came to first grade and I'd sit down the other side and I'd give him tips," Idris recalled. 

"I'd stay with him after training and give him tips when he was playing. And now he's a permanent in first grade. It's good to see. He stuck around there and he got his shot."

 In fact, the former Belmorian man-child was secretly jealous of the teenage standout. 

"We used to sit there and look at him in awe when he took his shirt off. He's ripped ridiculously. He's a Ferrari, I'm a two-stroke lawn mower. I have nothing on his rig," Idris said. 

"He had great feet as well. That's one thing I knew about him – great on his feet, he was strong, his arms are massive as well. He just had it all, didn't he?"

Now the master takes on the apprentice in what shapes as a mouth-watering battle on the Bulldogs' right edge, where Lafai leads his team in tries (14) and try assists (13). 

In contrast, Idris has just four tries and laid on eight tries for his teammates. 

But instead of plonking himself in the video room this week, the seven-year pro insists he's already seen enough of his former protege to know what he's capable of. 

"I don't tend to look at other players [anyway]," he said. "I always tend to think about myself. It's not for me to see how hard the players play. If I play my game and play the best of my ability, I think I'll have it under control."

But Lafai isn't the only Bulldog the Panthers three-quarter is weary of. In fact, Idris believes his old club has regained its 'Dogs of War' culture that was paramount in his time there. 

"We used to say when I was back at the Dogs in 2008 and 2009, we used to be ingrained to say 'Dogs of War, Dogs of War'," he said. 

"Back in the old school Dogs, it used to be brutal, no holds barred. You'd play to get hit. You'd play to hit. That's just football. You're going to get bashed, but you go out there knowing that and you're willing to do whatever it takes to win."

Idris, 24, hasn't played in a finals series since the Bulldogs were bounced by the Eels in this corresponding fixture five years ago. And now he's excited to make the most of it. 

"This is no bullshit: you look on Instagram and you see all these other blokes at Bali, Thailand, travelling. And I'm one of the biggest fans of travelling. Literally when off-season comes, I turn my phone off and I don't touch it until season starts again," he said. 

"But I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. There's only three others teams doing what we're doing right now, training. It's one of the best feelings ever."