Gould hails Ciraldo's influence at Bulldogs
Phil Gould says Canterbury coach Cameron Ciraldo has overseen one of the best NRL team preparations he has ever witnessed as the new Bulldogs era gets set to blast off.
The Bulldogs play Manly away on Sunday with a new-look outfit put together by football general manager Gould and helmed by the coach he appointed to get the club back playing finals football for the first time since 2016.
For more than four decades Gould has been involved in elite pre-seasons as a player, coach and administrator. He is not easily impressed, but he said Ciraldo's stewardship was first rate.
"I think he has run one of the best off-season programs that I have ever seen," Gould told AAP at Channel Nine's Wide World of Sports NRL launch.
"Cameron and the high performance staff have done a terrific job. The players are really well prepared.
"The club has come together nicely. There are a lot of new players and emerging players and he has got them together as a group."
Gould said Ciraldo's personable nature and clear messaging had got the players connected and primed. Now comes the first challenge against the Sea Eagles.
"All of that is about to be tested," Gould said.
"The fitness, the strength, the speed, the connectivity and the relationship they have got is all about to be tested. We will see how it goes in the rough and tumble."
Gould brought dual-premiership winner Viliame Kikau to the club from Penrith along with former Parramatta rake Reed Mahoney, who played in last year's grand final.
They will line up against Manly alongside five-eighth Matt Burton and winger Josh Addo-Carr who also tasted premiership success at their former clubs.
The quality of those players is unquestioned but Gould said Ciraldo had added a key ingredient to the mix to get the best out of his squad.
"We talk about trust, honesty, integrity and all those sort of things but you've got to live it and breathe it," Gould said.
" I think Cameron has concentrated a lot on their cultural awareness and connectivity...getting to know the face behind the face and the person behind the footballer.
"That is going to stand them in good stead when things get tough during games and in the down times. It is a season that has plenty of ups and downs and I think they are ready to take it all on."
That connectivity will be tested against Manly after the Bulldogs lost prop Luke Thompson to a broken ankle at training on Tuesday, making him the fourth front-rower to be unavailable.
Thompson is set to be sidelined for at least six months.
Max King, Ryan Sutton and Fa'amanu Brown will be the starting middle forwards charged with firing the pack.