Fitter forwards bring same ferocity for Bulldogs
The biggest talking point leading into the new season was how the Canterbury forwards would handle the reduction in interchanges from 10 to eight. Friday night's impressive win suggested they will get by just fine.
The Bulldogs pack looked noticeably lighter in their Round 1 clash against Manly, but still managed to outmuscle their opponents from start to finish.
Tony Williams was one of the players to slim down in the off-season, but 'T-Rex' says the weight loss wasn't necessarily to accommodate the new interchange rules.
"Compared to what I played at last year, I'm about three or four kilos lighter," Williams said.
"It wasn't really for the interchange being dropped. I think for ourselves we knew we had to change a bit with our diet and that. We knew that we had to play longer minutes. It was just for our health, I guess.
"I think the boys - especially me, Sam [Kasiano] and 'Beast' [Greg Eastwood] - we knew that to lose that couple of kilos would help us not just play longer, but play efficient minutes."
The back-rower made 124 metres and came up with 24 tackles in his first full game in nearly three years; a big step-up in the absence of former teammate Frank Pritchard.
"That was my first game playing 80 minutes for nearly three years. I was just happy to get through the 80. I'm healthy and I just need to keep that going," the former NSW and Australia representative said.
"There are a couple of boys in our team who could probably pump out 80 in the front-row. A special example is him [James Graham] and Aiden Tolman," he said.
"I'm not too sure about Sam [Kasiano] but he played well on the weekend, and he played long minutes. So it's a big plus that they can play those minutes. And especially 'Klem' [David Klemmer] could probably play those minutes. We're gifted to have those guys."
Bulldogs skipper James Graham was pleased with how his fellow forwards performed against the Sea Eagles, but admitted there were still some things his team needed to work on.
"I guess you're always striving for perfection. Whether you're going to get it or not is another story. We're not getting too carried away. It's just one win. It's a long season, so hopefully we can apply ourselves this week," the Englishman said.
"Looking back on the weekend, there are certain areas that we wanted to improve on. This is a new challenge this week. We're pleased with a few aspects of our game, definitely plenty to improve on."
Graham isn't buying into the hype surrounding his side heading into the Round 2 clash with the Panthers, saying their focus was on limiting the attacking threats of the mobile and at times unpredictable Penrith pack.
"We weren't really paying too much attention before, and we're not really paying too much attention to it after. It's a new week now and our focus turns to Penrith.
"When you play against a side that likes to offload and play that ad-lib stuff, I think the most important thing is to just be as honest as you can in your defence. The play isn't dead until the player is on the ground, so I think that's the most important thing going into it."