Canterbury Bulldogs coach Dean Pay says he welcomes the selection headaches provided by an impressive trial win by what was essentially a second-string Bulldogs line-up over a near full strength Penrith Panthers at Belmore Sportsground on Saturday night.
The five-tries-to-two thumping featured impressive contributions from playmakers Josh Cleeland, Lachlan Lewis, Jeremy Marshall-King and hooker/utility Nu Brown. Kerrod Holland had a strong game at fullback, creating one try with a nice grubber (though he did fumble one bomb with little pressure on him).
Back-up forwards Rhyse Martin, Jayden Okunbor, Francis Tualau and Renouf To’omaga, among others, each contributed well. They were well led by senior lock Greg Eastwood, who also had a strong game and will likely be the only member of Saturday night’s winning team to make the 17 for round one.
“It is [a good sign for the depth],” Pay told NRL.com after the 24-10 win.
“There’s a number of boys that stood up and got an opportunity and they took it. At the moment it’s a nice little headache to have. They’re all putting their hands up to make the round one starting team.
“We just wanted to get in the grind and build a game and create a little bit of pressure and make sure we were good with the ball, complete our sets – do the things we want to get done every week.”
Pay said he had been content with what his new-look team showed in a win over Canberra last week to give his depth players a run against Penrith.
“Yeah, we’ve had a really tough pre-season, they’re all really fit, the boys have all done a good job,” Pay said.
“They’ve bought in and there’s a good vibe around the place at the moment. We head over to Perth [in round one] to play the premiers (Melbourne) and they’re a wonderful side. We’ll see what happens.”
As to whether there are still genuinely spots up for grab in round one, Pay added: “There’s a few guys that put their hand up tonight, that’s for sure. We’ll discuss it and see what we can come up with but there’s a real sense of competition for spots here now. That’s what we need.”
The playmaking contingent for round one is set to be Moses Mbye at fullback, Michael Lichaa at hooker, Kieran Foran and Matt Frawley in the halves while Nu Brown could nab a bench utility role. But the efforts of all the playmakers on Saturday keeps the pressure on everyone, according to Pay.
“Yeah for sure, there’s pressure on them all, not just Matty Frawley. Josh Cleeland played well, Jeremy Marshall-King played well, Nu Brown had a really good game. I thought he was really good, Nu Brown. It’s going to create a few headaches. He can cover nine and seven, he’s got utility value for us.”