Canterbury winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak believes the Bulldogs will be a far greater attacking threat in 2021 after new coach Trent Barrett overhauled their preseason program to adopt a faster and more game simulation-based training environment.
With a trio of key backline recruits including halfback Kyle Flanagan, fullback Corey Allan and winger Nick Cotric joining the club, Watene-Zelezniak said he’d noticed significant improvements at Belmore already in the preseason and he expected a much better performance under Barrett in 2021.
“(Barrett) has really pushed our culture at the moment with the four pillars that he has,” Watene-Zelezniak said.
“Also in training everything is high speed, everything is fast. Everything is moving all the time which is game-like.
“And his knowledge in attack and things he brings to our team through that area is just second to none.
“I feel like we’re on the right track. I don’t want to put too much pressure on the new boys coming in, their job is just to come in and do their job. If everyone does their job and the team is working well you can win any game you want.”
After four seasons without reaching the finals, Watene-Zelezniak knows Canterbury are under pressure to show significant improvement this season.
Barrett's influence helps prepare Flanagan
But regardless of any external opinions, he believes they’re making the right moves internally to be a far greater threat this year after finishing 15th in 2020.
“This has probably been the hardest preseason I’ve ever done and in saying that the hard ones I’ve had I’ve had a good year and the team has done really well so we’re looking forward to this year,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do. I guess the stereotype has to change. I guess the predictions of where we’re going to be and what we’re going to do has to change. I don’t mind that.
“People will have their opinions but what really matters is what’s within us and inside our culture and what we want to do as a team. We will be our biggest opponents this year.”
Watene-Zelezniak will once again captain the Maori All Stars on Saturday and has spent the past week in Townsville preparing for Saturday’s clash with the Indigenous All Stars.
While he has been away in Townsville the club has been forced to deal with an off-field incident involving lock Adam Elliott and former Dogs hooker Michael Lichaa, resulting in police charges for their ex-teammate.
The matter is being investigated by the NRL Integrity Unit.
“I haven’t heard too much. I’m just really focused on this week,” he said.
“By the sounds of it, it sounds like a personal matter so I will leave that with the club and with whoever is involved.”
Bulldogs head to Kiama