James Graham of the Bulldogs.
James Graham of the Bulldogs. DAN HIMBRECHTS

Pressure affected Bulldogs' chances, admits skipper

RUGBY LEAGUE: Canterbury captain James Graham has conceded "pressure" may have been behind his side's unceremonious exit from last year's premiership.

The Bulldogs were fourth after round 23 but lost their final three games to finish seventh before being eliminated in week one of the finals.

It still stings a clearly passionate Graham.

"Maybe it was the pressure that got to us, what was at stake," Graham said.

"Pressure can affect you immensely. Our job as professional athletes means pressure is a privilege. We're in a high-pressure job but there are a lot of people around that want to be doing this job.

"With our players - and let's be honest, players that had been there before and managed to kick on to a top-four finish - sometimes maybe it's just sport.

"Maybe that's why we love it, because people fall off or come from nowhere. Maybe we're looking too far into it by looking at numbers and figures. Maybe it's just sport.

"That's why we love it and why we tune in.

"That external pressure is something we can't control. There's no point talking about it or letting it affect us too much. We believe in ourselves and each other. It shouldn't affect us too much. No one puts more pressure, or has higher expectations, than ourselves."

There was one positive, however: motivation.

Canterbury enters this season desperate for success to ease headlines surrounding the club and coach Des Hasler, and to appease success-hungry fans.

"I'm not going to hide from it," Graham said. "No one was more disappointed in the way the season finished than the playing group and the staff.

"We set exceptionally high standards in our club and we feel we under-achieved."

News Corp Australia

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