Canterbury coach Trent Barrett is confident of fielding a competitive side for Friday night's clash against the Broncos despite losing four players to COVID-19 and three more to injury this week.
The Bulldogs' preparations have been rocked after Brent Naden, Ava Seumanufagai, Jake Averillo and Reece Hoffman returned positive RAT tests on Wednesday morning, resulting in their withdrawals for round seven.
Jacob Kiraz, Billy Tsikrikas, Declan Casey, Kurtis Morrin, Phillip Makatoa, Zac Hetherington and Zach Dockar-Clay have all been called in to the new-look extended squad, with an updated 19-man side to be confirmed on Thursday night.
Trent Barrett's weekly press conference was delayed for more than four hours with other players and staff sent for PCR tests while the club worked with the NRL around exemptions to bring players in from outside the top 30 squad.
Match: Broncos v Bulldogs
Round 7 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Canterbury are due to fly to Brisbane on Thursday morning to face the Broncos on Friday night and were already without at least eight players due to injury including Brandon Wakeham, Chris Patolo and Braidon Burns.
"There's 12 unavailable [in total] so a fair chunk of our players but we'll be fine, it's not ideal but we've put together a side that will still be competitive and expected to win," Barrett said on Wednesday.
"We have got a few issues around our NSW Cup and Jersey Flegg [games], which we've asked to postpone. It's put more pressure on our lower grades than anything.
"In terms of our NRL game we'll be fine. It's not great news but it is what it is and we won't be the last club to go through it, it's just a few more than what we'd like.
"It's compounded by the injury list we've got at the moment which hasn't helped."
Barrett confirmed the likelihood of blooding more NRL debutants due to the shortage of players and said the prospect of playing in front of over 25,000 was exciting for them.
"The thing we want to focus on for the guys coming in is a huge opportunity for them," Barrett said.
"Some of them are fifth and sixth on the depth chart and all of a sudden they're going to play Brisbane on a Friday night.
"It's a huge opportunity for our young blokes but it's up to the senior players as well, we're still going up there expecting to win."
The Bulldogs were gallant in their Good Friday loss to the Rabbitohs but the game got away from them when Jeremy Marshall-King was sin-binned in the first half.
"It's never a great time for it to happen but we're still searching for that 80 minute performance," Barrett said.
"We were good for 30 minutes against Souths and the sin-binning didn't help but it's no excuse for the 18 points we leaked in 10 minutes.
"The players were really disappointed in that because we were in the game. It's going to be difficult going to Brisbane, we know, but we've all been in and around teams who have faced adversity.
"It's been done before, there's no reason why it can't be done again."