Bulldogs to build NRL team on good defence

Pamela Whaley

A lack of spark in attack is no major concern for Canterbury coach Dean Pay who is concentrating on strengthening his defence against North Queensland on Thursday night.

The Bulldogs failed to score a try in their opening match against Parramatta last week, but held the fancied Eels to a single try at Bankwest Stadium.

And while he wants to see more points on the board at ANZ Stadium against the Cowboys on Thursday night, he says defence is the foundation he's building the team on.

"We put a lot of hard work into our defence so we want to build our foundation off that. We're hoping again tomorrow that we can get that done and defend really strongly," he said on Wednesday.

"We obviously want to score a few more points and that will come as we go along, so we're working really hard in that area as well.

"We're really pleased with our defence last week but there's another challenge tomorrow."

The Bulldogs will need to upset recent history on Thursday night after losing their opening two games of the season for the past three years, each time winning their third.

Coming off their round-one loss to Brisbane at the opening of their new stadium in Townsville, the Cowboys are also desperate for a win.

However, they have their own record to beat, winning just seven away games over the past two seasons from a possible 24.

It's an unusual preparation for both teams considering the coronavirus pandemic will prevent crowds from all NRL games in round two.

As a result of increasing health restrictions, the Cowboys will fly in and out of Sydney on Thursday via an NRL-chartered plane.

"You look at the positives, that we get to sleep in our beds again (Wednesday) and again (Thursday) night," said Cowboys coach Paul Green.

"It's a different preparation for us, but when you look at some of the professional sports in the United States that's what they do.

"They have the luxury of owning their own jets, which would be nice.

"We have to take the positives out of it but the main thing is what we do in that 80 minutes."

The Cowboys will welcome back suspended forward Josh McGuire, while the Bulldogs have named local junior Jake Averillo to make his debut as the bench utility.

"It's ideal to have him on the bench, he's a talented kid and we're all excited about what he can do," Pay said of the 19-year-old.

"If nothing happens injury wise or HIA wise, I'm going to have to find a way to get him on the field so we'll work that out as we go along."

STATS THAT MATTER

* Canterbury are trying to avoid a fourth straight year of losing their opening two games of a season.

* North Queensland have not started a season with back to back losses since 2015, when they lost their first three but then went on to win the premiership.

* The Cowboys conceded 28 points, five tries, 676 post-contact metres and missed 44 tackles, all the most of any team in round one.