Cutters must step up against Bulldogs

RUGBY LEAGUE 

Illawarra will need improved ball security and a more thorough overall performance when they take on the Canterbury in a trial match at Belmore Sports Ground today.

Cutters coach Paul McGregor will be trying new combinations and is expecting a hard game from a Bulldogs outfit boosted by a number of NRL players.

The Cutters won their first trial 24-16 against Windsor at Ron Costello Oval last Saturday, but will need to produce a more consistent effort to compete against the highly rated Bulldogs.

Against the Wolves, the Cutters led 20-4 after 55 minutes, but Windsor cut the gap to 20-16 before Illawarra sealed the win with a late try.

"Look, I think with Canterbury, they haven't got a first-grade trial this weekend. I'd say there will be a lot of their first-grade squad members playing this week," McGregor said.

"For us to compete with that calibre of players we're going to have to control the ball a lot better than we did in our initial trial.

"I'm looking at different combinations this week than played last week. That will be another test for the boys, to see how the different combinations come back.

"A couple of players who didn't play last week will have the opportunity this week in Jarrad Hickey and Matty Handcock, who were both away on family business.

"It's another week of footy, gives everyone another week of opportunity and with that opportunity you like to see improvement in the way we get through our sets and finish our sets off and get into a grinding game of footy with Canterbury that will be needed early in the year."

Fortunately the Cutters came out of their first trial against Windsor last Saturday unscathed.

"They were not too bad. I spoke to the guys and they actually pulled up not too bad," McGregor said.

"The majority of them played only 40 minutes of football. So it's not that they're having to play 80 minutes straight.

"After the first game you expect a lot of soreness and maybe one or two injuries out of it, but we actually came through unscathed ... "

Kick-off is 3pm.

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