The North Sydney Bears are riding a mid-season surge to sit in ninth spot on the ladder with only point differential keeping them outside the top eight.

The Bears earned an impressive 44-32 win over the Illawarra Cutters last weekend to continue their strong campaign for the Finals.

It’s a great test for the Bears this week as they take on the fifth-placed Canterbury Bulldogs who will be desperate to bounce back after their demoralizing 35-34 loss against the Newcastle Knights. The Bulldogs led 34-12 with 12 minutes remaining before the Knights scored four tries and kicked the last-minute field goal to claim an incredible win.

“The Bulldogs will be out to play, I have no doubt in the world,” Bears coach Ben Gardiner said. “Absolutely no doubt in the world. They’ve been going really well. They’re probably the form team in the competition. The Bulldogs had won six of their past seven games before last week. We know that we will be in for a tough game.”

It’s a challenge the Bears are looking forward to, and one they know they must be ready for if they are serious about making a strong Finals push.

“We don’t change our preparation no matter who we’re playing but we’re aware of how well they’re going,” Gardiner said. “We will be leaving no stone unturned in our preparation this week.”

Gardiner is full of optimism for his side, who have turned their season around to stand as a competitive force. It’s been a welcome blend of young enthusiasm with experienced wisdom.

“We’ve got some young guys who have come and really brought some energy to our team,” Gardiner said. “I put our improvement down mostly to the energy that’s provided by those that have come into the side. Obviously, you get guys back from the NRL but we’re also thriving with those guys coming up from NYC because they’re getting an opportunity to move forward and take one step closer to the NRL. Our senior players with first-grade experience are providing great lessons and experience for those young guys to learn too.”

The Bears will need all hands on deck to stand up against the Bulldogs.

TEAMS:

BEARS: 1 DARRYL MILLARD 2 BERNARD GREGORIUS 3 JOHN OLIVE 4 ED MURPHY 5 KIRISOME AUVA’A 6 CODY WALKER 7 DARREN NICHOLLS (C) 8 NATHAN BROWN 9 PAUL CARTER 10 ZANE MUSGROVE 11 TULSA SAUMAMOA 12 JACK GOSIEWSKI 13 JASON CLARK 14 SCOTT SORENSEN 15 CHEYNE WHITELAW 16 ANGUS CRICHTON 17 JESSE ROBERTS 18 EVAN LEE 19 SAM MANULELEUA COACH BEN GARDINER


BULLDOGS: 1 LINDON MCGRADY 2 TYRONE PHILLIPS 3 CHASE STANLEY 4 JACOB LOKO 5 TAUTALATASI TAS 6 MATT FRAWLEY 7 JALINE GRAHAM 8 ANTONIO KAUFUSI 9 DAMIEN COOK 10 HERMAN ESE’ESE 11 LEVI DODD 12 ADAM ELLIOTT 13 JASON SCHIRNACK INTERCHANGE 14 BRAD CLARK 15 PAT O’HANLON 16 GEORGE TSIKRIKAS 17 MAKAHESI MAKATOA COACH ANDREW PATMORE

NORTH SYDNEY V CANTERBURY, LEICHHARDT OVAL, SATURDAY 1ST AUGUST, 10.40AM

This article first appeared on NSWRL.com.au