Bemused Bulldogs Consistently Inconsistent
It is impossible to predict the future of any NRL season in April, especially when a team sends mixed signals from week to week.
The Bulldogs have looked like premiership contenders at times in 2016 with impressive wins over the Storm and Rabbitohs, but they've also produced some substandard showings against the Raiders and Warriors.
While they currently sit in outright sixth on the NRL Telstra Premiership ladder, their own players are at a loss to explain what has been a mixed start to the year.
Bulldogs halfback Moses Mbye gave a frank assessment of his side's up and down 2016, but says the players know that when they click they are very tough to stop.
"We see ourselves as an above average team but at the moment we're performing as an average team, so we need to start to make a mark on this competition and string a few wins together," Mbye said.
"We've been very inconsistent and it's hard to put your finger on. I guess if we knew what it was then it wouldn't be happening. All we can do is focus on us, work on our game and the results will come.
"Our best football is great. We've put some great wins together but we've also had some poor losses. It all comes back to that word 'inconsistent'."
Backrower Josh Jackson echoed his halfback's concerns about the team's inability to put in back-to-back strong performances.
"I guess it's a mental thing at the end of the day and it comes back to our preparation and attitude," Jackson said.
"We're trying to work on it at the moment because we were really disappointing on the weekend and we've spoken about trying to get that consistency back in our game."
One of the biggest problems for the Bulldogs seems to be their form at home. While they are a perfect four from four on the road, the blue and whites have yet to win a game in front of their diehard fans.
Granted they have hosted games at three different venues in 2016, but when you consider the five teams above them have a combined record of 16-3 at home, it's a fairly worrying record for a side with top eight aspirations.
Experienced centre Josh Morris knows the importance of banking points at home early in the season and hopes a return to ANZ Stadium as hosts for the first time since Round 3 will be the spark needed to ignite their stop-start season.
"It's been a while since we played there…afternoon football as well so hopefully we see some free flowing football and a big crowd," Morris said.
"We definitely need to turn it around and we need to be winning all our games at home."
The NSW and Australian representative concedes his side were poor in New Zealand last week, but after a fortnight away in Melbourne and Wellington, hopes some home comforts will give his side a much needed boost leading into a tricky clash with the Titans.
"I think on the weekend we were definitely off. Our left side edge was pretty uncharacteristic. There were a few bad reads that cost us big time so we need to fix that up big time because there's no doubt the Titans will target that," he said.
"It was good to get home and sleep in our own beds. You take it for granted when you spend so much time at home, but it was good to spend that time away with the boys. It's something we needed. Obviously the results didn't go our way, but we've got a big game against the Titans this week."
After knocking off the Storm in Melbourne, the Bulldogs were expected to be too strong for the Warriors, but not for the first time this year were 'upset' by a hungrier team.
Winger Curtis Rona says the team has addressed those issues and is confident they can bounce back against a Gold Coast side that has been their bogey team in recent years.
"We seem to lose those games that we should be winning, especially at home. All the boys are fired up this week and we need to put in a good performance to get the win against the Titans and to get our season back on track."