Bulldogs custodian Dalin Watene-Zelezniak is bracing for his first game this year against superstar Roosters No.1 James Tedesco as he insists his new club can still make something of 2019.
The New Zealand skipper last faced off against Tedesco in round 15 last year when he was at the Panthers; his first game for new club Canterbury was against the Roosters just five rounds ago but Tedesco was among a host of Roosters stars absent from that game.
It didn't stop the Tricolours racking up a 38-12 win in round 15 and the premiers looked even more dangerous in last week's 48-10 demolition of Newcastle with their stars back and Tedesco running amok with 14 busts, nearly 300 metres and a try.
"Tedesco, he's on another planet that fella," Watene-Zelezniak smiled when quizzed by NRL.com about his opposite number's current form.
"It will be a good opportunity to test ourselves. He's one of the best in the comp at the moment."
Tedesco finishes off brilliant team try
While Watene-Zelezniak was player of the series for New Zealand against England playing fullback at the end of last year, he acknowledges he still has plenty to learn and there is no better source for that than the reigning State of Origin player of the series.
"I've learned a lot off him just watching him," Watene-Zelezniak added.
"It will be good to share the field with him, with a player like him, he's pretty amazing."
While 15th-placed Canterbury will start at about the longest odds of any team in any club game this year when they run out against the title heavyweights at ANZ Stadium on Sunday, the former Panther said they just need to have belief in themselves they can cause an upset.
"You've got to go into these games with the belief that anything is possible," he said.
"They are a quality side and they've got all their players there so we have to be on our best game.
"It's a good opportunity to test us as a team, see where we're at, see individually as well, matching up against our opposite number and seeing how we go against them and testing ourselves. Anything is possible if you turn up on the day and want it. You've got to want it."
While the season so far hasn't gone to plan for the blue and whites, there have been some improved signs in the four games since Watene-Zelezniak joined with a pair of gritty wins against finals hopefuls Cronulla and Newcastle underpinned by strong effort and resolute defence.
"I think our defence has improved; there's a bit of belief we can actually win games," he said.
"We're putting effort in and working for each other. Our defence in those games that we won was really good. We were still doing things wrong but the effort was there. You don't have to be the best player in the world to put in effort."
While most have put the line through Dean Pay's side this season, an unlikely run of seven straight wins would give them a mathematical chance at September footy and the fullback said he has always been a "glass half full" kind of person.
"I still have hope. There's a few years teams have made it [to the finals] on 24 points," he said.
Match: Bulldogs v Roosters
Round 19 -
Venue: ANZ Stadium, Sydney
"You never know what can happen, especially with Storm being on 32 points. Anything's possible. I always have hope no matter what until round 25. I always have hope we can win games and make the finals.
"There's only a few games left so we have to get into shape and we've got a tough games against the Roosters this week we have to focus on, but I'm always confident we can make finals no matter what."
Watene-Zelezniak has been a part of some impressive late-season surges in his career already and will lean on those experiences over the final seven rounds of 2019.
"I've played finals for five years of my career and we had times where we've been in this position and we've had a run home of eight in a row kind of thing so you never know what can happen," he added.
"I always have hope and I always believe. Until it's completely certain that we can't I always have hope."