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Loyal Dog: Faitala-Mariner set for new deal after sniffing around

Bulldogs back-rower Raymond Faitala-Mariner is eyeing off another two years at Belmore after weighing up an early exit 12 months ago in pursuit of regular game time.

A two-year extension for the Samoan and Kiwi international is understood to be close to completion now a rejuvenated Faitala-Mariner has shaken off a series of injuries to simply "run hard and tackle hard" in 2020.

The 26-year-old has started on Canterbury's left edge in the past five outings and churned out an impressive 40 tackles and 123 running metres per game.

Midway through last year it was a different story, when Faitala-Mariner was dropped to Canterbury Cup and while sidelined with a knee injury, wondered whether his future lay elsewhere as rival NRL interest lobbed with his management.

"It did cross my mind when I wasn't getting game time," Faitala-Mariner told NRL.com when asked how seriously he considered leaving the Bulldogs.

"It was there for a bit. But I chose to back myself, stay here and work on the little things in my game.

Faitala-Mariner breaks through on the left edge

"I was told there were [rival clubs] interested at the time. But to me I was contracted to the Dogs and had two years on that.

"I'm a bit of a loyal person and I thought 'I'll play it out, work hard and look to renew it here first'."

A heart-to-heart with Dean Pay and the NRL's COVID-19 pandemic pause have Faitala-Mariner back on track.

Raymond Faitala-Mariner representing Samoa against PNG in 2019.
Raymond Faitala-Mariner representing Samoa against PNG in 2019. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

A second round of gruelling pre-season training throughout April and May has allowed him to fully recover from his syndesmosis surgery in January, while knee and hand injuries cut both his 2018 and 2019 campaigns short.

But at Pay's urging, the damaging 110kg edge runner is again fully fit and thriving with the simplest of instructions.

"I really like this about Deano, he's really narrowed my game down," Faitala-Mariner said.

"It's as simple as it gets, my role: Run hard and tackle hard. This game is a simple game. Once you complicate it, that's where pressure and errors come in.

"If you narrow your focus to just run hard and tackle, everything else takes care of itself. For me personally, we sat down and that was it.

"Run hard, tackle hard, look after Foz [Kieran Foran] on that edge, and that's all we need. From the start of the season that's been the focus for me."

Faitala-Mariner starts once again in Saturday's all-important clash with Brisbane.

Raymond Faitala-Mariner as a young Warrior in 2015.
Raymond Faitala-Mariner as a young Warrior in 2015. ©Wayne Drought/NRL Photos

With four losses on the trot and pressure mounting at Belmore his first focus is on turning the team's fortunes around.

But Faitala-Mariner firmly believes in Pay's ability to right a listing ship is duly happy to re-commit to Canterbury's cause.

"We're in talks but I'm just leaving that to my manager," he said.

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"Getting a win here is the focus and hopefully my game can control what's happening behind closed doors.

"It's my first club away from [junior club] the Warriors and the Bulldogs has felt like home straight away.

"The club's been good to me so hopefully I can return the favour and string a few wins together for them."