Canterbury are hardly the first team to suffer a big loss at Townsville in 2016, but the premiership hopefuls are still shattered at their efforts in Thursday's 36-0 drubbing which they hope will not define their late-season.

A loss to the Cowboys is one thing, but a huge loss and a below-par performance on the back of four straight wins was a reality check and Bulldogs players are hoping to put that result behind the as soon as possible.

"Hopefully our performance in that game doesn't define our season," skipper James Graham said at training this week.

"Over the weekend we've been bitterly disappointed about the performance and the result but we have to put it to bed; we can't dwell on it for too long."

Graham said the team needed to take their lessons from that game and move on.

"I don't think you can afford to play that bad against any opposition or any team no matter what they're playing like but when you give a champion team like the Cowboys at their own place in those sort of conditions that sort of [opportunity] you're a very slim chance of achieving what you set out to do," he said.

The skipper denied suggestions the team's extended preparation in Cairns ahead of the game actually hurt their chances.

"If we win it's the best thing we've ever done, if you lose people are looking for excuses or reasons, it's people's nature to be that way inclined," he said. 

"We prepare the same every week whether we're here or away every week. I don't think it had too much of a bearing on the way we applied ourselves."

The Bulldogs will look to move on as quickly as possible, and that starts by getting back in the winners' circle this Friday night against the Dragons – who Graham expected to provide a stiff challenge despite their recent three-match losing run.

"We're expecting and preparing for the best possible Dragons team so we don't read too much into what people in the press are making out of it; it's not any of our business really," Graham said.

"This sort of negative press often drives good performances. I was saying to some of your colleagues [in the media], thanks for doing that for us. We're expecting a highly motivated team, coming off the back of a loss, chasing in the eight, it's probably the worst time to play them."

In-form winger Brett Morris was also expecting a hit-back from his former club in the face of some negative publicity.

"They're fighting to make the top eight. Certainly as a footballer you want to be playing finals footy so they'll be looking for a big performance and obviously when stuff gets written in the media when you're a player it hurts to see that sort of stuff and certainly the only way you can stop it from happening is going out there and putting in a good performance, so I'm expecting a really hungry Dragons side come Friday," Morris said.

"Obviously last weekend's result was a very down point of the year [for us] but we know we've got a quality side here, we're not sitting in the position we are because we're not a good side.

"We want to stay in touch with that top four. We believe the top four is where we see ourselves and going into the finals I think you need to be in the top four to be a big chance.

"We've got a good run over the next weeks. We play the Cowboys again, we play the Broncos again so if we want to be up there and be one of those good sides we need to beat the best sides as well. It's a tough run for us but it will put us in good stead with those games."

This article first appeared on NRL.com