Dragons not taking depleted Dogs lightly
The Dragons aren't buying into suggestions this week is a good week to play a Canterbury side missing five key players from their last-start loss due to injury and suspension, and would have preferred to play a top-strength side.
The team that lost a Good Friday classic to the Rabbitohs in controversial circumstances will be without fullback Brett Morris (hamstring), centre Tim Lafai (knee), and props James Graham, David Klemmer and Sam Kasiano (suspension).
But Dragons players have insisted the new faces in the Bulldogs side will definitely be up for it, and suggested Canterbury coach Des Hasler will have his squad more than ready for the challenge.
"There are no easy games... obviously they've lost a few key players with suspension and injury but we've got our own things to worry about," halfback Benji Marshall said.
"They're going to be a tough proposition and still have a big forward pack."
Some of the new faces include regular first-graders; prop Tim Browne, Lloyd Perrett and Antonio Kaufusi join the pack with Corey Thompson and Chase Stanley added to the backline.
Fullback Josh Dugan said the Bulldogs are tough no matter who's playing.
"They've still got their great halves there and a couple of other great front rowers there and [former Dragon] Chase Stanley's probably first in line to go into centre and we all know what he can do.
"They're still going to be a tough side, it's going to be at ANZ and it's going to be tough anytime you play them."
Bench hooker Heath L'Estrange, who played under Hasler when both were at Manly, said Hasler's professionalism and the quality of his coaching staff would make the Bulldogs a tough prospect no matter who takes the field.
"We wanted to play the big pack," he insisted.
"We don't disrespect them – we wanted to play the likes of Graham and Klemmer, their big boys. But bringing all these young blokes in, it's not going to take the spark out of the Bulldogs' big squad, they're a good team, Dessie and the training staff would have got them amped up for this big game," he said.
"No matter who you bring in to first grade they're all ready to go and they want to make an impact. Some of these blokes coming in haven't played for a while so I'm looking forward to getting in amongst it."