Brett Morris is set to stake his claim for a NSW jumper, however St George Illawarra say returning Canterbury captain James Graham is occupying most of their attention.
Morris trained with the Bulldogs on Sunday and is in with a chance of returning from a hamstring injury against his former club the Dragons at ANZ Stadium on Monday.
Bulldogs trainers put the side’s No.1 through his paces at Belmore Oval but a call on his return will not be made until early on Monday.
If he does come back into the line-up, it will mean the Dogs are approaching full strength after struggling with a heavy injury toll for the last few months, with inspiration skipper Graham (knee) certain to make a comeback.
Morris has not played since the Bulldogs’ memorable Good Friday loss to South Sydney in round 5 and he will be desperate to prove his fitness to NSW coach Laurie Daley ahead of June 17’s State of Origin II in Melbourne.
It will also be an emotional occasion for Morris having come through the junior ranks at the Dragons before switching to Canterbury this season.
He sat out the sides’ round six clash due to injury however appears likely to take his place for the return clash on Monday.
“It was an unusual hamstring injury so it’s one that we’ve had to treat differently and make sure we’re ticking all the squares,” Bulldogs coach Des Hasler said.
The Bulldogs have won just two of their last seven but the Dragons are expecting a different outfit with Graham back in the line up.
Since 2012, the Bulldogs have won just 39 per cent of their matches without Graham and have a 63 per cent winning record with him in the team, according to Fox Sports Stats.
Dragons captain Ben Creagh said Graham’s presence forced sides to defend differently because of his ball-playing capabilities.
Creagh said because Graham was adept at playing on both sides of the field, had a show-and-go, a long ball and could go out the back, it forced teams to be on their toes.
“He’s got more than one option,” Creagh said.
“He’s not just carting the ball up to get a quick play the ball, he can pass, he can dummy and he can do a lot of other things. He’s hard to handle.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* The Dragons haven’t conceded more than 18 points in a match since round three and have conceded three tries just three times in that nine game sequence.
* The Dragons’ 46-6 thumping of Cronulla last week was just the second time they have scored more than 40 points since 2010.
* The Dragons have forced their opponents to make more goalline drop outs than any other team, averaging more than 2.5 per game.
* Bulldogs winger Curtis Rona has scored the first try of the match four times this season.