Bulldogs blow out cobwebs in opposed session

Canterbury coach Dean Pay got his first look at a revamped Bulldogs squad under match conditions in an in-house opposed session against Wests Tigers on Tuesday.

Winger Marcelo Montoya (torn hamstring) played his first competitive field session in seven months while centre Kerrod Holland (ankle surgery) was still on limited duties.

In good news for Bulldogs fans, star half Kieran Foran (toe) hasn't missed a beat over the off-season after missing most of 2018.

Holland said while the real indicator of what the 2019 team will look like will come in the upcoming Bega trial against Canberra, it was good to be back under game conditions.

"We had a bit of an opposed session against the [Wests] Tigers yesterday [Tuesday], just in-house and then we play the Raiders next week at Bega ... [positions are] all for grabs," he said.

"It was good just to play against someone you haven't been playing against for the last eight or 10 weeks in pre-season."

Holland is hoping to maintain his own right edge combination with winger Reimis Smith after the pair dominated in the team's late-season form spike but admits with the likes of Christian Crichton and Nick Meaney inbound and Morgan Harper and Jayden Okunbor rising through the tanks, backline spots will be at a premium.

However, the pair were separated in the opposed session, with Smith moved in one spot to right centre and Holland on the left with Crichton and Marcelo Montoya on the flanks.

It was good to get out there and mix it up with the boys

Bulldogs winger Marcelo Montoya

"We saw two different teams, it was a mix and match of players," he added.

"I was limited with my ankle and couldn't play too much. [In] The Bega trial we'll see more of where the positions are going to be."

The end-of-season ankle cleanout kept Holland in the rehab group until after the Christmas break.

"I'm coming back from injury with my ankle. I wasn't on the field before Christmas ... I had surgery on both ankles in September, a week after our last game I had them cleaned out," he said.

With both Michael Lichaa and Jeremy Marshall-King and a few up-and-comers all running at dummy-half in the session, Holland hopes his days as a bench hooker are over.

"One thing I'm trying to do is stay out wide and not in the middle. It's a bit tough in the middle," he laughed.

"Hopefully I can stay out wider, it's where I've been training in the pre-season."

Montoya also welcomed Tuesday's hit-out. He hasn't played since tearing a hamstring in the Intrust Super Premiership in round 17, the game after being dropped by Pay following a patch of form he now describes as "flat".

Canterbury winger Marcelo Montoya.
Canterbury winger Marcelo Montoya. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

"Dean spoke to me and said there's positions up for grabs and whoever trains the hardest will get a shot," Montoya said.

"I think last year I was a bit flat, it was hard for me to get that feel again on the footy field but this year I'm looking forward to focusing hard on myself and playing some good footy.

"[The opposed session] was actually really good. I hadn't been on a footy field in six or seven months in a game sense. It was good to get out there and mix it up with the boys and have a bit of fun.

He had a run on both the left and right flanks as the teams switched around, he said.

"I'll play anywhere. This year's been really good, we've had the footy in our hands a lot more and we're learning a lot more off the coaching staff and off the players as well."