Bulldogs big men ready for new rules
When the NRL announced the number of interchanges would drop from 10 to eight in 2016 (combined with a shot clock reducing breaks in play), the Bulldogs' big pack was the example used by all and sundry as a team that might struggle to keep up.
They remain one of the biggest packs in the NRL but lock Greg Eastwood told NRL.com coach Des Hasler has been preparing his side virtually from the second of the announcement and they will be ready to hit the ground running this year.
"Once the rule came in Dessie Hasler went crazy and got stuck into us!" Eastwood laughed.
"But in saying that guys like James Graham and Aiden Tolman, they can play 40 minutes straight and last year we were only using two or three [interchanges] before half-time so to have that, [it still leaves] five now after half time.
"It might mean a few more minutes for players but I think we'll cope all right."
Centre Josh Morris may enjoy a few more attacking opportunities late in games but he also backed his big men to flourish under the new rules.
"I think it's going to be interesting. The way we've trained over the pre-season it's the fittest squad I've seen since I've been at the Bulldogs," Morris told NRL.com.
"We've really focused our efforts in the fitness on that kind of stuff, with less recovery to play to that shot clock style, and I think that's probably made us a bit fitter because we've been doing it a bit more fatigued."
Bench prop Sam Kasiano is one of the biggest men in the NRL and has been mentioned widely as a player that may struggle with the new pace but coaches will still have the option of using some players in short stints, while Kasiano himself has upped the fitness this year according to Morris.
"Blokes like Sammy Kasiano, I haven't seen him run like that for a few years – obviously last pre-season he had a few injuries and that set him back but he's really been flying and I've really been impressed by him heading into Round 1," Morris said.