Bulldogs great Steve Mortimer says Canterbury appear close to their prime thanks to controversial pair Josh Reynolds and Mick Ennis.
One has been accused of disrespecting the Australian Test captain.
The other has raised eyebrows with some bizarre post-Origin behaviour.
But Bulldogs great Steve Mortimer likes what he sees from niggling rake Mick Ennis and controversial pivot Josh Reynolds, saying Canterbury appear close to their “prime” in the NRL finals race.
Fuming Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy joined a chorus of disapproval over Ennis patting Cameron Smith on the head after the Storm and Test skipper made a crucial error early in their 28-4 finals loss to the Bulldogs on Sunday.
But Mortimer was all smiles, saying it was a sign the Bulldogs were back on track after losing six of their previous eight games.
“I have no criticism of the way he plays because if he can upset someone then he’s got the better of them,” Mortimer told AAP.
“I never tried upsetting blokes but if Michael Ennis can put someone off out there, that can maybe get them an edge.
“I like how he plays. He is giving the Dogs some good value at the business end of the year.”
Mortimer also defended Reynolds who has been accused of having an inflated ego after displaying erratic behaviour since starring in NSW’s drought-breaking Origin series win.
The Bulldogs pivot copped a three-match ban for a fiery display against Brisbane before another “brain snap” on his return against the Gold Coast, throwing a wild pass straight to Titans players in the regular season finale.
But Mortimer backed Reynolds to learn from his mistakes and inspire a premiership tilt that appeared unlikely not so long ago.
“I have got to know Josh quite well and he’s very community-minded, it’s just when he gets on the field,” he said.
“I was a different person on the field too.
“But Josh is a decent person. He’s like (Melbourne’s) Billy Slater, a very competitive person.
“On the field he has done some mad things but if he is wise he will learn from his mistakes and I believe he has that wisdom.”
Mortimer said the Dogs already appeared to have found another gear under coach Des Hasler ahead of Saturday night’s semi-final against Manly.
“I believe the Bulldogs are now coming up to their prime,” he said.
“If I was one of the players coming into that team I would be pretty upset about the way they had lost the last couple of weeks.
“I think Des has focused on that.
“There’s a long way to go but whatever Des said it has certainly hit a nerve about the players being upset with themselves and how poorly they have played for probably most of the year.”