Praise for Bulldogs' spine as Frawley stars
Debutant halfback Matt Frawley had a debut to remember in Canterbury's 10-7 win over Brisbane on Thursday night, giving Bulldogs coach Des Hasler some serious food for thought this week when senior half Moses Mbye returns from suspension.
While Canterbury were thoroughly outplayed in every facet of the game in a 36-0 loss to Manly last week, they have looked short on ideas in attack in every game this season, including their only win – a 24-12 victory over a diabolical Warriors outfit in which they had enough possession and field position to win three games of football.
Thursday's win over the Broncos was far from perfect and came off the back of a monstrous effort from the forward pack but without doubt the calm and collected effort of former Raiders NYC star Frawley – who kicked for three drop outs and was denied three try assists from kicks only by poor execution from his teammates – was a critical difference.
"I thought our halves were really outstanding," Hasler said after the game.
"Took the line on, engaged the line. The spine was what a spine should be. They showed a lot of enterprise."
The playmaking spine certainly looked improved, particularly with rookie fullback Brad Abbey producing easily the best game of his young career with a try, six kicks defused and 157 metres, after having let in the opening try after being caught out of position.
Hooker Michael Lichaa also put in his best effort of the year so far, mixing up a few dummy half darts (for 62 metres) with solid dummy half service and 42 tackles.
The biggest difference though was Frawley but Hasler wasn't giving anything away regarding his plans for the following week.
"We'll assess it. Obviously we've got a couple of bumps and bruises but he was everything that we thought he would be. To make a debut like that, it will be a game that he will remember for a while. He did really well out there," Hasler said of Frawley's hopes.
Lichaa left the field for the final three minutes with what looked to be a shoulder injury so whether that opens an opportunity for Frawley to stay in the side with Mbye coming back in at hooker remains to be seen.
Skipper James Graham for his part was unsurprised about the polished effort Frawley produced.
"I thought he did really well for his debut game, it was outstanding," Graham said.
"No.7 is probably up there with the most difficult positions to play. To be honest he's been banging down on the door for two years now. We've got a lot of lads that haven't quite had the opportunity to play first team yet but consistently I've known that Matt's been ready to play first team for a long time now.
"He's been in our system for two years. Every time we've trained with him he's been great. He didn't surprise me tonight, I knew he was going to perform that way."
On the game overall, Hasler wouldn't acknowledge there had been any additional pressure on himself or the club despite ongoing debate about whether he will be at Belmore past this year (or even necessarily past this week, depending which rumours you read) but was relieved to have reversed a poor performance last week.
"We had a win, that's the main thing," he said.
"Conditions were pretty tough out there, we made it hard for ourselves. Probably should have had a few more tries scored but we got the win so that's the main thing. Sort of hung in there and had to play some footy in the back half too.
"It was a good effort overall."