The excitement around Belmore has been infectious since it was announced on Sunday that New Zealand captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak had shockingly signed with the Bulldogs from the Penrith Panthers on an 18-month deal.
That enthusiasm has clearly bled into the squad, and was on full display this week as Dylan Napa fronted the media in the lead up to this Sunday’s grudge match against the Sydney Roosters.
The Bulldogs enforcer was quick to heap praise on his new teammate, and is eager to see what he can bring to the side heading into his blue and white debut. “He’s a world class player.” said Napa, “He’s pretty damn fast! I wouldn’t mind seeing him in open space. We’re going to try get him the ball and get him with a bit of room to move.”
Napa himself will be coming up against the club with which he won two Premierships, and insisted he has nothing but respect for his former colleagues, many of whom he remains close with. “I’m excited to come up against them. They’re still some of my closest mates.” said Napa, who won two Premierships with the Roosters.
He was also quick to defend Easts centre Latrell Mitchell, who has come under scrutiny in recent weeks following a string of disappointing performances from the youngster. “I really feel for Latrell. He’s 21 years old and you (the media) are getting on his case after a couple of bad games. It doesn’t make sense.”
With the Bulldogs are heading into a another tricky period in which they’re set to play the Sharks, Knights, Broncos and twice face the Roosters in the space of just five games, Napa made it clear the fixture list won’t be playing on his sides mind, but admitted things must improve on the pitch “It’s rugby league, there’s no easy games. Right now, we’re sitting on three wins and we know that’s not good enough. It’s been tough but we’re sticking together as a squad and we’re going to try and turn it around on the weekend.”
Turning it around against the Premiership favourites looks to be a mammoth task, but with the Roosters struggling for form as of late, the opportunity is there for the visitors to pull off an unlikely upset and give themselves the platform needed to improve and build towards a positive finish to the season.