Bulldogs bargain rookies replacing Woods and Foran
Lachlan Lewis and Ofahiki Ogden are the cut-price rookies charged with replacing a lazy $1.7 million of the Canterbury roster.
As the nephew of Immortal Wally Lewis, Lachlan carries the famous name, while Ofahiki's is one that takes some forgetting. Both will make their NRL debuts against the Knights in Newcastle on Saturday.
The mid-season departures of Aaron Woods to Cronulla and Moses Mbye to the Wests Tigers has resulted in Lewis and Ogden slotting straight into the club's top-30 squad, a sign of the times at Belmore, where rookies and bargain buys will be the norm while the Bulldogs dig themselves out of their salary cap hole.
Lewis, 21, comes into the halves to cover for the injured Kieran Foran, while 22-year-old Ogden will start from the bench against Newcastle with Aidan Tolman returning from injury to replace Woods up front. Will Hopoate returns to fullback in place of Mbye.
Renowned as a solid defender, Lewis has captained the Bulldogs' Intrust Super Premiership side this season as he alternates between centre and the halves, and gets his first-grade chance after moving from Canberra two years ago.
Ogden meanwhile tips the scales at 106 kilos and has been among Canterbury's best at second-tier level since arriving from the Warriors late last year.
Along with an NRL debut, Ogden's form earned him a NSW Residents call-up in last week's Holden State of Origin curtain-raiser, and a reputation at the club's Belmore base.
"He's tougher than nails. He's definitely someone that I steer clear of when I'm running the ball at training," back-rower Adam Elliott said.
"He's got some big shoulders on him and he's a big boy. He's come over from New Zealand and pushed himself and trained really hard and then he's played really hard in reserve grade.
"He's definitely earned his spot. In saying how sad it is to see Woodsy go there's a great opportunity for someone like 'Ofa' who could be anything going forward in the future, I think he's going to be a great player."
While Ogden and Lewis come into the 17 against Newcastle, Foran faces another gruelling rehab stint after successful surgery on the marquee halfback's season-ending toe injury earlier this week.
The Kiwi international's signing has come under fierce criticism given his repeated injuries and how they hampered him when he made it onto the paddock.
After a six-week recovery from ligament damage in his toe, Foran will undertake an extensive pre-season in a bid to get his body right, with Elliott backing the veteran playmaker to return to full fitness.
"It goes back to when he first started playing NRL, he's probably the number one halfback who took the ball into the line," Elliott said.
"Since he's been playing NRL he's always put his body on the line and played through pain.
"Seeing it first hand, I've got so much respect for Foz with the way he's fought through this pre-season to get his body right... and maintained it for 12 games straight when there was a lot going on and pushing through the pain.
"I've got no doubt in my mind. He's contracted here for a while and I think he's going to come back and make the absolute most of that... he's got a fair bit of time to get himself right for the 2019 season and I seriously think he'll be sweet."