A downcast Bulldogs centre Kerrod Holland reckons he won't keep getting picked in first grade if he doesn't improve on his efforts against Canberra while prop Aiden Tolman is just relieved to be playing after missing 10 weeks injured.
Holland had a tough outing in his team's shock 32-28 loss to Canberra at Belmore last Saturday, missing five tackles as opposite centre Jarrod Croker ran amok with three line breaks, two try assists and one try after Holland was promoted to starting centre by coach Dean Pay a week earlier.
Speaking to media from Bulldogs training this week, Holland said he felt he had learned plenty from his time filling in as a bench hooker but now that he was back in the starting side he'd need to improve to hold his spot.
"It was nice to get in there and mix it with the big boys and see what they go through," Holland said of his nine-game stint as a bench dummy-half.
"It gave me a different perspective on the game which I think has helped my game off the back of that. Centre is probably my preferred position so it's good to be back out there."
However Holland insisted that newfound starting gig would be short-lived if he didn't tidy up what went wrong against the Raiders.
"You never have a [guaranteed] run, it's always on form and if I play like I did on the weekend I don't think I'll be playing too many more games," was Holland's blunt assessment.
"No one's guaranteed a spot, Dean's said that since he got here, he doesn't care about name or anything it's on performance."
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Holland said he was personally not happy with his last-start performance, although he did praise the team for a second straight week of good attacking football.
"It would have been nice to get away with the win to then go back and look on it, but there's things I've got to work on. The partnerships I've got to from with the blokes inside and outside me and you just get better as a team," he added.
"It's tough for everyone (giving up a 14-point lead in the last six minutes) but we learn from it and move on. They all hurt, getting beat but getting beat like that definitely hurts, especially here [at Belmore].
"We thought we had the game wrapped up and we've got to be better than that, we can't just clock off with five or 10 minutes to go and it hurt us."
Tolman felt the team had turned a corner over the past fortnight despite Saturday's loss and was relieved just to be back playing footy.
"Our performance against the Knights a couple of weeks ago was really good against a side that was trying to make the eight and against a quality side in Canberra, we know they can score points and at 28-14 we all thought we had the game won but as Canberra showed they can score points really quickly," Tolman said.
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He was hopeful the current pain of losing players, such as mid-season departures Moses Mbye and Aaron Woods plus centre Josh Morris who will join Cronulla next year, would pay dividends next season.
"The management, board, coaching staff, Dean, they have a plan they're putting in place. This year has been tough but if they execute it this year then hopefully next year we can buy some players and we're on the improve," he said.
"We're a proud club here, we know we've got good people in place and we'll turn it around. Building into next year, now that the pressure is off and we're out of finals contention we can play footy that we want to play and work on that for next year."
Tolman's recent 10-week layoff was the longest of his career, he said.
"When you're used to playing all the time it does get difficult but you learn new things and you learn stuff about yourself," he said.
"You just do your rehab and sooner or later you get out of there. You've got to put it in perspective, we play a game of sport and at the end of the day it is a game.
"There's plenty of worse things to happen to other people and you've just got to move on and while you thing it's hard at the time you've got to put it in perspective, you still go home at the end of the day and see your kids and come back and train the next day.
"I got through it and I'm back playing now and it's a lot easier."