Ciraldo won’t make Crichton a lock at fullback for Dogs

George Clarke |

Stephen Crichton will wear the No.1 for the first time in Bulldogs colours against the Storm.
Stephen Crichton will wear the No.1 for the first time in Bulldogs colours against the Storm.

Cameron Ciraldo won’t commit to making Stephen Crichton’s switch to fullback a permanent one as Canterbury finally get a glimpse at their star off-season recruit in a position of influence.

Previously used as a centre this season, Crichton will make his first start of the campaign in the No.1 jersey on Friday away to Melbourne with first-choice option Blake Taaffe sidelined with concussion.

Taaffe’s absence is compounded by the loss of prop Max King (wrist), who Ciraldo ruled out of a reunion with the Storm and added to a growing list of unavailabilities that includes Kurt Mann (hand), Jacob Preston (jaw) Blake Wilson (pneumonia) and Ryan Sutton (knee).

But even accounting for their long injury list, long-suffering Bulldogs fans will be excited at the prospect of seeing Crichton play out the back.

It was a role many expected him to fulfil when he agreed to move to Belmore from Penrith last year but Ciraldo said the Samoa international hadn’t had a say in where he was deployed.

Stephen and Tanah Boyd.
Stephen Crichton tries to break a Tanah Boyd tackle during Canterbury’s clash with the Titans. (Mark Evans/AAP PHOTOS)

“He (Crichton) didn’t actually say he wanted to come here as a fullback,” said Ciraldo, who underlined that he was delighted with Taaffe’s efforts in the role so far this season.

“He said he wanted to come here and do what’s best for the team and he’s been really clear about that, that’s why I love him because he always does what’s best for the team.

“He has done reps at fullback, but he’s never said that’s exactly where he wants to play.

“He’ll get an opportunity to play there this week.”

While most coaches would fear the trip to Melbourne with such an injury-hit squad, Ciraldo has reasons to be optimistic.

He has a 100 per cent record against Craig Bellamy across two matches as a caretaker coach at the Panthers and his maiden win as Canterbury boss last season.

“I’m not worried about my record, because the other part of it isn’t great,” Ciraldo said.

“I’m just worried about Friday night getting our blokes down there in the right frame of mind and ready to compete.

“Anytime you got to Melbourne and win it comes back to your effort and your attitude and it’s something we’ve been pretty consistent in.”