Bulldogs bolt out of the blocks
They can often take time to warm into a season but the Bulldogs are in position to make an early impression on the 2016 Telstra Premiership according to Fox Sports commentator Ben Ikin.
With arguably the biggest forward pack in the NRL last season the Bulldogs were believed to be one of the clubs hit hardest by the reduction in interchanges from 10 to eight but were one of the more eye-catching victors in Round 1.
In addition to a bright start by William Hopoate at fullback and the combination of Josh Reynolds and Moses Mbye in the halves, Canterbury unveiled a trimmed-down forward pack that gave the Sea Eagles little chance to get in the game.
Workhorses James Graham and Aiden Tolman both played in excess of 60 minutes but it was the leaner physiques of Sam Kasiano, Tony Williams and Greg Eastwood that had many rugby league pundits taking notice.
Writing in the Round 2 issue of Big League, Ikin is of the opinion that rather than allowing his players to work into a season, coach Des Hasler has them at peak fitness from the opening kick-off.
"Last week’s win was Canterbury’s first in Round 1 since 2012," Ikin writes in Big League.
"In the past few years I’ve felt Des Hasler has used the footy season to get his players into condition.
"Often the Bulldogs have been caught flat-footed at this stage of the year – including a couple of losses to Penrith. But in 2016, Des seems intent on a fast start."
Although victors over the Panthers in Round 15 last season, the Bulldogs have gone down to the mountain men the past two times they have played them in March.
Ahead of their 98th meeting with the Panthers on Thursday night, Ikin has identified a simpler brand of football as being extremely effective for the Bulldogs' not-so-big men at this stage of the season.
"It’s obvious [the Bulldogs'] giant pack has worked really hard over the pre-season to get fit and lean in preparation for the interchange reduction and the shot clock," Ikin says.
"The newly svelte Sam Kasiano is the perfect example – not only in his appearance, but the change up in his game.
"Kasiano minimised his usual ‘130-kilogram halfback’ style and constantly had the Sea Eagles on the back foot in a busy, tough performance.
"The entire Bulldogs pack played the same way – 'dumbed-down footy', I think it’s called."
The Round 2 issue of Big League is on sale from newsagents and at the ground and features all the latest news along with NRL, Holden Cup and lower grade team lists. Digital version also available through Zinio.