AAP Rugby

Young Bulldogs lose NRL surprise element

By AAP Newswire

Canterbury's up-and-coming NRL stars insist their best is yet to come but are well aware they will become the hunted in 2019 after leading the way last year for the struggling Bulldogs.

Canterbury come into this year as rank outsiders, but enter the pre-season on a high after winning four of their last six in 2018 to shake off the wooden spoon.

Much of that was down to the emergence of rookies Rhyse Martin, Lachlan Lewis and Reimis Smith, who were the shining lights of their end-of-season run.

Martin, in particular, was impressive. His 24-point haul from the back row in a losing effort against Canberra in July summed up the Bulldogs' season and his own breakthrough year.

It was those kind of performances that earned him a new one-year deal, but he's well aware it will be more difficult in 2019.

"One thing we brought into this pre-season is that we finished the season off doing really well and we've tried to build on that," Martin said.

"The young boys that came in at the end of the season, we did a really good job and ... I think personally I can still do a lot more on the footy field.

"But the second year coming in, people know how you play and you've just got to keep doing the little things right on the field."

Canterbury will enter this season as the least experienced and youngest squad in the competition, according to NRL.com.

Favourites for the wooden spoon after the departure of David Klemmer and the Morris brothers, senior players are pointing at the young crop as reasons why they can have hope again.

"You look at the positives to come out of last season was we did unearth some super talent there and some young guys who have been champing at the bit to get in there," playmaker Kieran Foran said.

"I thought they performed extremely well. That was a positive and I think, as a group, it made us stronger those tough times and tough losses.

"Hopefully, that can give us some faith and belief we are going to have a big year."