They’ve been part of a much talked-about playmaking overhaul at Belmore – and Bulldogs halves Matt Frawley and Josh Cleeland feel that the results are just around the corner.
The pair are still getting acquainted with one another in the Canterbury-Bankstown side, with Cleeland signing on in 2017 following an outstanding season with the Newtown Jets. Frawley, who has been at the club since 2015, doesn’t understate the value the 2016 Five-Eighth Of The Year brings to the Bulldogs.
“It’s been good – ‘Joshy’s’ a really good player,” Frawley tells NSWRL.com.au. “I think we complement each other’s styles really well; he’s a really good runner of the footy and I sort of try to organise it a bit more.
“We’re still trying to form a combination but yeah, I love playing with him.”
Cleeland, who at 25 is three years Frawley’s senior, arrived at the club amid significant change to the attacking approach of NRL halves Josh Reynolds and Moses Mbye. With head coach Des Hasler giving the players a greater creative license and encouraging a more prominent running game, the tactics have filtered down to the Intrust Super Premiership NSW outfit.
“We changed our styles a little bit, we’re sort of trying to get a little bit more involved and getting our hands on the footy a little bit more,” Frawley says. “We run the structure as the first grade team.
“I think it’s a good structure and it’s going to work as we get used to it more.”
It must be said, of course, that the new approach has failed to bear fruit so far in 2017; the club has secured just one win from four starts in each of the NRL and Intrust Super Premiership NSW competitions. The latter came in the form of a 16-8 victory over the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles on Saturday afternoon and while Frawley admits it wasn’t pretty, he was pleased to get off the mark in 2017.
“It was a win, that’s it. It was pretty scrappy,” Frawley says. “We were just a little bit unstructured but I thought we defended really well – we only let in one soft try.
“It was a good win but there’s still plenty to work on. It’s pretty much a brand new squad so we’re still just getting to know each other.
“Hopefully as the weeks go on we’ll string a few combinations together and get even better.”
The pairing of Cleeland, who won the Intrust Super Cup in 2015, and former Canberra Raiders Holden Cup captain Frawley is one with enormous potential. The players have only played together twice so far but with strong performances, they know they can apply pressure to Reynolds and Mbye for spots in the top grade.
“We hope so, obviously that’s the goal for everyone,” Frawley says. “If there’s an injury or suspension or whatever it is, we’re both going to try put our best foot forward, but we both know that can only happen if we’re winning Intrust Super Premiership NSW games and playing good individual footy.”
With Mbye cited for a Grade 1 Shoulder Charge from the club’s Round 4 NRL defeat, the door could open for either Frawley or Cleeland to make their NRL debut as early as next week. At the Intrust Super Premiership NSW level, the Bulldogs will prepare to take on the red-hot Penrith Panthers at St Marys Leagues Stadium in Round 5.