Interim Bulldogs coach Steve Georgallis saw class in five-eighth Jake Averillo but wanted more involvement from him in Friday's 32-20 loss to Manly at ANZ Stadium.
The 20-year-old's performance was a bright spot on a disappointing night where Canterbury gave up a 10-0 lead and another golden chance to leapfrog the Broncos out of last place.
Averillo had mostly played centre in his previous 11 NRL matches but came through the juniors as a playmaker.
He finished with two try assists - one after taking on the line and offloading to Matt Doorey in the fifth minute and another with a lovely in-field kick to Lachlan Lewis in the second half.
"Young Jake was in and out of the game but when he was in he was good. He's got to learn to play 80 minutes," Georgallis said.
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"That's his first [NRL] game in the halves and the fatigue sets in. It's a position where you need to talk a lot.
"We kept sending messages out for him to get into the game and I thought he responded well in that last 15 minutes."
Georgallis lamented his team's defensive effort as they missed 43 tackles and allowed Manly to promote the ball dangerously.
"I was really happy with the way they started the game. Unfortunately missed tackles and one-on-one missed tackles on the edges hurt us a lot. They started to offload and got us a bit on the hop," he said.
A suspected PCL injury to back-rower Doorey compounded a nightmare week of injuries after props Ofahiki Ogden (fractured cheekbone) and Luke Thompson (calf) were hurt at training.
Averillo breaks through to set up Doorey
Canterbury's boardroom dramas made headlines leading into the game but Georgallis said that couldn't be blamed for the display.
"Subconsciously it may play a part, but the footballers are focused on football and playing on the field... " he said.
"It's no excuse for the amount of tackles that we missed in that second half."
Georgallis admitted it was "tough" to watch centre Morgan Harper, who scored a try and ran for 214 metres, shine for Manly after he left the Bulldogs in July.
"Morgan was in my 2018 [Canterbury Cup] premiership-winning team ... It was tough watching him but I'm happy for the kid," he said.