Canterbury have unlocked the secret to playing their best football, according to skipper Josh Jackson.
And that is playing without fear.
“I think we’ve just relaxed a little bit, there’s no pressure for us to make the semis”: Josh Jackson.
It's been a dire season at Belmore with their salary cap saga casting a dark cloud and the side being locked in the bottom four all year.
But Dean Pay's team has shown there's light at the end of the tunnel after notching three wins over the last four weeks playing an uninhibited brand of freewheeling football.
All year the Bulldogs have been safe with the ball in hand – they have made the third least errors in the competition with 9.7 per game and a completion rate of 77 per cent.
But they have exhibited a willingness to take risks and chance their arm over the last month, which Jackson said was due to a lack of pressure.
"I think we've just relaxed a little bit, there's no pressure for us to make the semis and everyone's playing a little bit more footy," Jackson said.
"This time of the year it's hard for the teams in the top eight because the teams in the bottom of the competition are willing to push a pass and put a kick in that they wouldn't have done normally."
Jackson said right-side outside backs Kerrod Holland and Reimis Smith were discovering just how good they can be and their enthusiasm was rubbing off on the group.
Smith is a microcosm of what has gone right for the Bulldogs in recent weeks.
After making his debut in 2016, he hasn't had a sustained crack at first-grade until this year.
"We can't make finals and a few weeks ago we said 'man, let's just go and play some footy, we'll do this play, we'll do that play, it doesn't matter, we've got nothing to lose'," Smith said.
The Dogs have been forced to blood young talent this year as a result of their salary cap squeeze, which saw Aaron Woods and Moses Mbye leave mid-year.
"I think when us young blokes came in it sort of changed the vibe, there was a losing vibe and it was fresh air when we came in, we spiced it up a bit," Smith said.
"Honestly I never knew I can do what I've done (the last few weeks).
"When I came in and started playing some good footy I thought 'far out, I can do it'. Imagine if we have another pre-season what I can do with that year."
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