2023 recruit Liam Knight said it best when he described the mentality of the 2024 Bulldogs pack:
“We're not the biggest pack but we have to be the hungriest,” said the prop who is midway through his first preseason with the Club.
“We want to be the hardest-working pack and that's our goal. We're going to be aggressive.”
Knight, 29, joined the Club from South Sydney at the end of last season and is now one of a handful of new, versatile recruits who have since joined him in the blue and white at Belmore.
While the pack might not be the biggest or most experienced, the mentality among them holds a bit of old-school Bulldogs bite: what matters to them is that they are the hungriest. An aggressive pack is the hallmark of any successful Canterbury team.
Fresh talent has flooded into the Club and while the team itself is establishing a new identity under Head Coach Cameron Ciraldo, the forward pack will prove to be particularly crucial in 2024.
Kurt Mann (Newcastle), Josh Curran (Warriors) and Jake Turpin (Roosters) have all been added to the squad, while three big bodies in Tevita Pangai Jr (retirement), Corey Waddell (Manly) and Luke Thompson (Wigan) have all exited the Club.
Despite their size and experience, injuries and tested squad depth led to no forward averaging more than 100m a game across the 2023 season.
2024 has seen a change in the type of forwards recruited under Ciraldo, a nod to the style he wants to play with renewed focus on defensive effort areas.
“Kiks (Viliame Kikau) is the leader with what he's achieved in the game and who he is in stature,” Knight said. “But the thing about our identity is, we are creating it now.
“We're a new pack, we're from all over the place, so we have to create it.
“I'm one of the oldest, so my role now and what I want to focus on is being a leader and setting an example and put my best foot forward at training every day and help those young guys coming through.
“We have a very young team, so I want to be of value to them.
“Josh (Curran) is a skilful player. I've always thought he was talented but he's come in guns blazing and with a never-back-down attitude.
“We're not the biggest pack but we'll have a really good crack.”
Knight knows a thing or two about resilience and bouncing back from adversity.
He has spoken openly about his battle with addiction in the past, as well as the journey to becoming sober and earning another chance in the NRL.
Knight now has a fresh opportunity at the Bulldogs and wants to make the most of it, both for himself and for the passionate fans he has now had the pleasure of encountering.
“I want to be part of a team taking the Bulldogs back to the finals and I want to play an integral role in that,” he said.
“It's been a tough couple of years for me so it's about getting the opportunity to get myself back in the game and be a part of a team that's going well, and bring some fun and love back to the fans who have been so loyal,'' he said.
“The passion of the fans is immense.”
Originally published as 'All about size of the bite in Dogs', Pamela Whaley - The Daily Telegraph.