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Bulldogs halfback Drew Hutchison believes his team's reaction to close losses is the clearest sign they are on the path to long-term success. 

Canterbury will enter Round 9 inside the top eight for the first time since 2016 courtesy of a number of impressive wins, including a last-start 36-12 victory over the Knights. 

But it's the close losses to Melbourne and South Sydney that provide the biggest insight into the Bulldogs new mindset according to one of their key off-season recruits.

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"When you lose a game to Melbourne down there and have the feeling of disappointment, that's what part of being in a good team is," Hutchison said. "Everyone could've said 'we did so well' but at the end of the day we weren't happy with the result. 

"It's a good environment to be in when that's the case. We're not happy with where we're at, we want to get better. Every day we come in here to improve and we know we've got more in us."

Canterbury's recent resurgence comes after a lean period, with their last finals appearance coming in 2016.

Drew Hutchison views the reaction to the Bulldogs loss to Melbourne as a sign of how far his side has come this year.
Drew Hutchison views the reaction to the Bulldogs loss to Melbourne as a sign of how far his side has come this year. ©NRL Photos

Coach Cameron Ciraldo promised to turn the struggling club around when he stepped into the role prior to the 2023 season and he quickly commenced an overhaul of the roster. 

Working alongside general manager Phil Gould, the pair have been busy in the recruitment market and landed a host of prized signings.

Viliame Kikau and Reed Mahoney arrived last year while Hutchison and new captain Stephen Crichton headline a list of 2024 recruits featuring Bronson Xerri, Josh Curran, Jaeman Salmon and Connor Tracey.

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Ciraldo can see the steps the Bulldogs have taken since last season but feels there is plenty of work to do before they reach their peak. 

"We're on a different part of our journey to a lot of other teams but I'm very happy with where we're heading," he said. "We've shown a lot of consistency to start the season. 

"We put ourselves into a position to win another two or three games and we didn't ice them. If we had have done that I would've been happy and thought we were exactly where we needed to be. 

"We've only won three games, no one's getting ahead of ourselves here. There's a lot of hard work to be done and it starts this Saturday."

The recent arrivals have played a key role in this year's growth, with Kikau in career-best form after battling a string of injuries in 2023. Josh Addo-Carr is also healthy and Crichton has thrived in the centres. 

The Bulldogs have another chance to take a big step forward when they host the Wests Tigers on Saturday afternoon.

Benji Marshall's side is dangerous, but it's a game Canterbury should expect to win if they want to challenge the top teams in the competition.

Connor Tracey has impressed in his first season with the Bulldogs.
Connor Tracey has impressed in his first season with the Bulldogs. ©NRL Photos

Ciraldo has always known the Bulldogs rebuild was not an overnight process but he views each game as an important marker of where they're at. 

"I'm happy with where we're tracking but I'm also not that patient," he said. "I want to get there faster.

"I want us to be a really strong club where everyone knows what they're going to get, a really consistent team. We're tracking there, but not there yet."

Acknowledgement of Country

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs respect and honour the Darug and Eora nations, who are the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.