Bulldogs shed puppy fat to improve - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Bulldogs shed puppy fat to improve

By Todd Balym 13/03/2009 05:45:42 PM Comments (0)

Kevin Moore spent part of 2008 looking for weaknesses in the Bulldogs outfit - he didn't have to search far.

The new Bulldogs coach almost immediately identified that his side lacked fitness and suffered from too many injuries.

His first priority after taking the coaching duties from Steve Folkes was to employ separate strength and conditioning coaches.

"They're the sort of things you look at when you've fallen off the pace a bit," said Moore.

"I'm really positive about the impact those blokes have had and really confident they will do a good job for us.

"A lot of it is about working hard and making sure you're as fit as you can be, as strong as you can be and as quick as you can be."

Moore will know on Saturday night whether his men are fit, strong or fast enough as the wooden spooners face last year's premiers Manly at ANZ Stadium.

The Sea Eagles set new standards for speed and fitness in 2008 and, alarmingly for the rest of the NRL, they showed no signs of slowing when they romped to victory in the World Club Challenge.

Moore said that after just 80 minutes of football, maybe less, he will know if his men are still off the pace.

"I'd rather find out in round one rather than round 10 where we are at," said Moore.

"They're the benchmark and what we can do this weekend will let us know where we are at and we can move forward from that.

"The best always challenge you to get better yourself. We haven't tried to copy anything they've done but, if you look at them, we said that's the level we have to get too.

"That's why it's a good opportunity this week. We will know if we are near that level or well off it."

Just how close Manly will be to their best on Saturday is debatable.

The club has endured horrendous headlines stemming from last week's season launch, with fullback Brett Stewart charged with sexual assault and stood down by the NRL for his drunken behaviour just days after becoming the face of the game in its new TV advertisement.

With Stewart absent, grand final hero Michael Robertson will play fullback and Shane Neumann comes onto the wing.

But even without match-winning fullback Stewart, Moore said there was plenty of danger in the Sea Eagles side.

Forwards Brent Kite, Josh Perry and Glenn Stewart all won Test selection last year while halfback Matt Orford won the Dally M Medal.

"Twelve months ago they were all really good first-grade players and now they're sort of chock full of internationals and Origin players," Moore said of Manly.

"They're the steps they've taken over the last 12 months.

"Individually they have to be watched but as a team I think they're at the top of their game. They think they can win any game they go into and that's probably one of the hardest things to get over.

"To be able to challenge them we have to be right at the top of our game and maybe even above it."

The Bulldogs, and rugby league in general, are hoping winger Hazem El Masri can provide a good news story as he is just seven points shy of breaking Andrew Johns's all-time point-scoring record.

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