Bulldogs 2009They might be the ‘shambles’ of the NRL at the moment, but the struggling Penrith Panthers are being treated with serious concern by the hot-to-trot Bulldogs in this Round 2 clash at CUA Stadium.

Bulldogs captain Andrew Ryan has warned his side to erase the memory of last weeks blockbusting win over Manly and start things all over again. It will be a challenge in itself to show the Panthers respect, such was the woeful performance by the Penrith side last week.

With an unusual team construct put forward by coach Matt Elliott, hooking upcoming pivot Wade Graham prior to the game and prior to that the spates of team-mates fighting at Penrith training – things look pretty awful way out west.

The Bulldogs on the other hand have gone from the out-house to the penthouse in the space of a week and naturally are keen to stay on top of the heap. Their wooden spoon from last year will soon be forgotten if they continue their sublime display consistently in the weeks ahead.

But the man they call ‘Bobcat’ has said that the impressive win last week was the result of intense hard work during the off-season. Their months of training and planning proved successful, now it’s a case of consistency.

The players on the Doggies roster suggest enthusiasm won’t be an issue with the likes of Michael Ennis who is seemingly the ‘poster-boy for excitement’ on the field and the raw Jamaal Idris looking like he enjoys every second of his footy.

“I guess we’ve been planning for that Manly game right through the off-season,” Andrew Ryan confirmed earlier today.

“We knew we were going to be playing them round one and we knew it was going to be a massive challenge for us.

“From Monday morning we’ve just had to come in and say `it’s on again this week’. That’s what being one of the better teams is, and trying to be consistent is turning up every week.

“It was a good result but we’ve moved on from that on Monday and we’re ready to go for Penrith this week.”

For the Panthers its the complete opposite. They don’t look to have any structure and while some individual performances are encouraging, such as the talented Michael Jennings and workhorse Petero Civoniceva – for the most part they need to come together as a unit and fast.

Most have tipped the Panthers for the spoon and on last weeks performance, they are absolute specials. Their predicament made crystal clear when you saw coach Matt Elliott scream a host of profanities and almost have a heart attack – when Lachlan Coote kicked dead on tackle 2 during an attacking set.

But Andrew Ryan is all too aware of the dangers off a written-off team, he should know – he was there last week. With the NRL these days, a 50/50 call can go against you and if a try results, it can literally be one way traffic for a long period of the game. If someone gets a roll on, its very hard to stop it. And while the Panthers are playing like blind-men at the moment, a single cutting run by Michael Jennings can have opponents in tatters.

“We were up against it a lot last year, we’re not complacent for any game whatsoever,” he said.

“They’ve got some big boppas, (Petero) Civoniceva, Frank Pritchard’s been named on the bench, (Adam) Woolnough off the bench too, so they’re a big strong forward pack.

“For us to be any chance we need to work hard in the forwards and defensively, they’ve got some really dangerous players too, obviously (Michael) Jennings scored a fantastic try the other night, and then there’s (Jarrod) Sammut and Luke Lewis in the halves as well. They’ve got some good performers there.”

Ryan also confirmed the excitement of the new recruits at the Bulldogs has rubbed off on the old brigade. With existing players feeling renewed at the new troops by their side.

Brett Kimmorley, Michael Ennis and Ben Hannant were among the 7 new faces trotting out for the Bulldogs last week. And only several days ago, former Bronco Greg Eastwood has been confirmed as a new face at the Bulldogs, however some contractual restrictions remain as Leeds look to protect their investment.

New coach Kevin Moore was obviously pleased with the new recruits, more to the fact they settled in so well and have bonded quickly with the rest of the group at Belmore.

“It certainly was an important area and it’s something that I said right from the start … was the main focus for me, just to get everyone to know each other and build that camaraderie,” Moore said.

“It hasn’t been all that difficult because I think the players have been outstanding … they’re committed to the club and from my point of view that makes my job easier.”

The NRL News team have tipped the Bulldogs to win in this match, hard to resist their hot showing in Round 1 against Manly. However, this game could be a high scoring affair from both teams.

By ricky

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