Josh Cleeland’s transition from Newtown to Belmore has been a smooth one, and the Bulldogs’ new live wire has played an instrumental role in their brilliant run of form in recent weeks.
Undefeated since Round 9 of the competition with five victories and two draws, the Bulldogs have risen into the top four of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW ladder after a shaky start to the season.
They have come a long way since losing their opening three matches of the season, with one of those being the New Zealand Warriors - the very team they faced last week at Belmore Sports Ground – and made a huge statement by downing the visitors 22-20.
With the game in the balance for a majority of the contest, it was the class of Cleeland that ultimately proved the difference with two vital individual tries and a hand in his team’s first.
“It was a tough game, the Warriors are always hard and they have a big pack,” Cleeland says to NSWRL.com.au.
“Especially this week we had a few boys in first grade so a few guys went up.
“The props did an amazing job. They had a big game in front of them and they stood up and I think they handled it pretty well.”
The Warriors led 16-6 at half-time, and were in front for a majority of the contest, but the ‘never-say-die’ attitude associated with the Bulldogs came into play on Saturday afternoon.
Cleeland’s try in the 78th minute locked the scores up and the conversion was slotted to win the game, and he credits the discipline his team showed throughout the contest that saw them claim two valuable competition points.
“We just needed to complete our sets. They’re a big team so we needed to turn them around and tire out their forwards and have some fun.
“We tried to do that, the first half was a bit sloppy, but we fixed it up in the end.”
Having played out a 30-all draw against the Roos and a 26-all draw with the Jets in back-to-back games, Cleeland admitted he felt more relief than joy when he saw the ball sail through the posts for the final conversion of the game.
“I was very, very [happy] - I didn’t want another draw, that would be three,” he laughed.
“It’s not the best, we needed the two points.
“We’re coming into the back of the year so we really needed those.”
Arriving from the Newtown Jets over the off-season, Cleeland saw an opportunity to take his game to the next level with the Bulldogs and is relishing the move in new colours and working under premiership winning coach Des Hasler.
“The fans are really crazy here and they love everyone. You walk down the street and they all know your name.
“Des is an amazing coach and I’m happy to be here.”
Although comfortable playing week-to-week footy in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW, Cleeland still has high hopes making his first-grade debut, and knows exactly what it takes for that dream to finally become a reality.
“I just got to keep playing consistent and show up for the boys,” he said.
“Hopefully my time will come and I’ll take it with both hands.”