Canterbury coach Dean Pay has lauded the efforts of the club's young pups for providing enough motivation for the side to finish the final six rounds on a positive note after a tough year.
Pay's men enjoyed their sixth win of the season with a gritty 16-8 win over the Panthers in a result that places them four competition points clear of the bottom-placed Gold Coast Titans, who meet the Roosters at the SCG on Sunday.
Bulldogs halfback Jack Cogger was pivotal for the Belmore outfit with a try and assist for Reimis Smith, while mid-season recruit Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was everywhere against his former club.
"I think it speaks volumes of our young blokes and how much the club and group mean to them and how hard they're willing to work for each other," Pay said.
"The determination in willing to stop tries is there for everyone to see. We're still going to have our ups and downs.
"We've got the youngest group in the comp but tonight was a real step in the right direction. We need to make sure hopefully we can build on it.
Match Highlights: Bulldogs v Panthers
"We've had a tough season ... but they've stuck solid. We're building towards something. We want to be a top-four team eventually."
The match came with extra significance for the Bulldogs with Watene-Zelezniak and Corey Harawira-Naera facing their old club, while Aiden Tolman celebrated his 200th match for the club.
Tolman's head was busted open in the first half with a knock before he was sent to the sin bin for a professional foul in a roller-coaster outing in his milestone appearance.
"I thought Dal and Corey were great," Pay said.
"Dal set our standards early with how hard he runs the ball back and he's been doing it every week and ever since he joined the club. Not only on the field but off the field he's been terrific.
"He's really enjoying his footy and it shows tonight. Aiden come off and said that game had everything for him.
"I can't speak more highly of him, just the person he is and the determination and what he brings to our footy team. He's exactly the same off it, a fantastic person for our club."
The Bulldogs will return to ANZ Stadium next week against the Wests Tigers before calling Bankwest Stadium home on a more permanent basis in 2020 while the Olympic Park venue undergoes its redevelopment.
"I thought it was fantastic, it's a wonderful stadium," Pay said of the western Sydney venue.
"There's a fair bit of noise in the place so it's great for our players. For us to beat Penrith in our first game I think it's going to be a wonderful place to play."