Canterbury coach Dean Pay has put his faith in hooker Jeremy Marshall-King as a player of the future after the club distanced themselves from Andrew McCullough.
Marshall-King will play his 50th game against Manly on Sunday on the Central Coast, as the Bulldogs desperately look to avoid their worst start to a season in 24 years.
But it comes after a week where Canterbury have been linked to a number of players.
Pay has confirmed they have an interest in Canberra second-rower John Bateman, and would love to have him at the club next year alongside fellow English recruit Luke Thompson.
However the Bulldogs have been quick to shut down rumours of former Queensland State of Origin dummy-half McCullough joining the club next season.
And he insisted the talk had not impacted current Bulldogs No.9 Marshall-King, with the 24-year-old starting at hooker for just the 13th time on Sunday.
“If it does worry a player, players will come to you and say is there any truth to it?” Pay said.
“But a lot of the players don’t read too much in the media.
“We’re really happy with Jez and the way he is going. I think he’s going to be a player of the future.
“He is only a young player just like our halves.
“You put time and effort into those guys and they’ll get better with every game they play and every season they play.”
After losing their first two games, the Bulldogs have not started a season with three straight defeats since 1996.
The importance of avoiding that record is even more heightened this year, given the shorter season leaving less time to recover.
“Obviously it’s a shorter competition so every point is valuable,” Pay said.
“We need to make sure we are going up there tomorrow to try and get a result and points on the board.”
Pay is under no illusion of the task that awaits him.
He expects Manly fullback Tom Trbojevic to be even more difficult to stop under the NRL’s new six-again rules, with pacy No.1s having so far benefited this round.
The Sea Eagles have scored just one try and spent the least time camped on their opposition’s line in the opening two rounds, but the stats hardly tell the story of their first two weeks.
They held Melbourne to 4-2 for the opening hour of their round one loss, before edging out the Roosters 9-8 before the shutdown.
“I think you have to give respect to the opposition we were playing,” coach Des Hasler said.
“Melbourne and the Roosters, you’re always going to get games that grind out.
“In both those games, Melbourne got three tries from kicks and the Roosters only carried the ball over our line once.
“There’s been plenty of time and it’s a different vibe now. It’s a different way it’s interpreted.”
STATS THAT MATTER:
* Tom Trbojevic has scored three tries in his past three games against Canterbury
* Manly haven’t beaten Canterbury away from Brookvale since 2013
* Canterbury made the most errors (31) in the first two rounds