Hutchison out to unite pack of Dogs amid halves race

Jasper Bruce |

Former Rooster Drew Hutchison hopes to win the right to steer Canterbury around the park in 2024.
Former Rooster Drew Hutchison hopes to win the right to steer Canterbury around the park in 2024.

New recruit Drew Hutchison has pledged to get the best out of an undermanned Canterbury pack should he win the race to partner Matt Burton in the halves.

With NRL trials two weeks away, Hutchison is among a handful of Bulldogs training in the halves and hopes to shake the utility tag he picked up across five seasons at the Sydney Roosters.

Hutchison and ex-Titan Toby Sexton appear the likeliest candidates to start alongside Burton in round one come March, with a back injury sidelining young gun Karl Oloapu indefinitely.

Hutchison, a highly-rated playmaker going through the junior grades, has shed a couple of kilograms as he vies for the vacant halves spot.

“It’s really up for grabs,” the 28-year-old said.

“This trial period that’s coming up is going to be really important in terms of positions.”

Either Hutchison or Sexton will be tasked with playing behind a forward pack that has lost considerable manpower since this time last year.

Tevita Pangai Jr, Luke Thompson, Franklin Pele, Nu Brown and Corey Waddell have all left and were followed out the door by ex-captain and fellow forward Raymond Faitala-Mariner this week.

Jaeman Salmon and Josh Curran are the most notable of the reinforcements able to play in the forwards, though neither is a physical heavyweight in the Pangai or Thompson mould.

Drew Hutchison.
Drew Hutchison gets through the line during the Roosters’ clash with the Dolphins in Sydney. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

But Hutchison shrugged off suggestions the Dogs pack would be too small to compete in the athletically-gruelling modern game.

“Some of the best forwards in the comp are those blokes that are under 100kg that can move and get in between defenders,” he said.

“It just depends, it depends on the game, it depends on the style.

“Having a pack that is mobile and that is aggressive is something we’ve spoken about.”

Hutchison believes his time at the perennially competitive Roosters will have prepared him to get the best out of a pack working to cover the exits of former teammates.

“That challenge is sort of on me, to communicate with them and to bring the best out in them,” he said.

“That’s something in my game that I have learned and have an understanding of. Bringing the best out in players around me is something I’m going to need to do this year.”

Hutchison pointed to a pre-Christmas army camp as proof the playing group would be pulling in the same direction.

As they crashed to a 15th-placed finish in 2023, Canterbury were subject to rumours that some in the playing group had concerns about the intensity of coach Cameron Ciraldo’s methods.

But if division remains, Hutchison has yet to see it.

“Those whispers last year, it couldn’t be further from the truth when you come here and you experience how hard the boys have been training,” he said.

“With all the new faces that are here, it’s been pretty exciting.

“There’s a bit of a buzz around every session. There hasn’t been much time to dwell on what’s happened before.”