Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire senses danger in a giant-killing Bulldogs outfit with nothing to lose and says his team's recent good form is meaningless unless they keep winning.
Canterbury-Bankstown have defeated finals aspirants Cronulla, Newcastle and Penrith in their past five matches and are intent on continuing the trend against the Tigers.
Maguire's troops sit ninth, in control of their finals fate, but they won't take the 15th-placed Bulldogs lightly at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.
"One thing about our group is they're very aware of where we are right now and tomorrow's a very important game," Maguire said.
"We want to be the team that makes the eight. There's a lot to play for and we're aware of what we need to do tomorrow and we know the opposition have been performing well. So we need to turn up and make sure we perform the way we did last week.
"[Canterbury are] a thorough team. They complete, they build pressure. They do the things that every team's trying to achieve. I guess at this time of the year they're just out there playing."
Brooks cast Liddle in Cook's mould
Maguire was most pleased with last week's 28-4 victory over North Queensland after waiting to see a complete performance.
He praised his Tiger cubs for rising to the defensive standards he demands.
"I'm really understanding the group and I've got really strong characters I'm watching grow, but it's the young guys I've been really impressed with," Maguire said.
Is there anything Fonua can't do?
"In coaching, that's what I get the most out of – seeing these young guys grow into strong men. I challenged the boys a couple of weeks ago and they've been able to move from where they were to [having] stronger defence. That's what the game's about at this time of year."
And Maguire expects his youthful crop – including the likes of Thomas Mikaele, Oliver Clark and Paul Momirovski – to drag the senior players forward.
"Having a couple of key players is always a strength but it's good to see the younger boys are able to challenge our older boys as well," Maguire said.
"That's obviously the type of team we want to become and we want to do it respectfully."
Moses Mbye's move from fullback to centre has proven successful, the Tigers having won four of five games with the captain permanently in the front-line and Corey Thompson filling the custodian role.
"He actually grew up playing as a centre and that was a little memory I had, so I thought I'd give him an opportunity out there," Maguire said.
"I think he's taken to it really well. He's put a real strength around that left edge and the commitment he's put into that has really helped us as a team.
"[Thompson] has really grown in that position. He's learning and learning every single time we train. And that's what I love about little Thommo, he just wants to get better – which is what we want to be as a club."
Prop Josh Aloiai won't face the Bulldogs because of a hand injury, with the Tigers granted exemption to bring Chris McQueen into their 21-man squad.
Wests Tigers eager to end finals drought
The club went straight from training at Leichhardt Oval on Friday to Macquarie Park to attend the funeral of former ARL and NSWRL chairman John Chalk, who died last week.
Chalk was the inaugural chair of the Wests Tigers board and had a lengthy tenure as Balmain's chairman from 1985.
Bulldogs v Wests Tigers – Round 21
"I'm very big on the history of clubs. I wouldn’t be standing here if it wasn't for John Chalk," Maguire said.
"People like [Chalk] make our game."