The Canterbury-Bansktown Bulldogs will take on the Gold Coast Titans this Sunday afternoon with both teams eager for a win.
Bulldogs cult hero Jacob Kiraz will be hoping to continue his form in the clash as he looks for ways to improve his skills and play his role.
In his eight appearances for the club so far, Kiraz has become a fan favourite. Debuting at the start of this season, he has managed to score three tries and averages 126 running metres in only eight games. Not only is Kiraz an offensive threat, but also a weapon in defence.
While some backs in the competition might be seen as a liability in defence, this is not the case for Kiraz. He has been able to put together 78 tackles at 89.7 per cent tackle efficiency. Kiraz is ready to showcase both his attack and defence against the Titans.
“I’m keen. I’m very excited, obviously didn’t get the win in the other game [against the Rabbitohs] but we’re full of confidence this week,” Kiraz told media this week.
Even though he started his career in the Bulldogs’ development system, he has previously signed contracts for the Cowboys and the Knights.
At only 17-years-old, the North Queensland Cowboys decided to take the risk and sign him to a three-year contract. After this contract ended he signed a developmental contract with the Newcastle Knights. He then returned back to the Dogs at the start of this season.
Kiraz reflected on what he has worked on the most this season compared to last.
“My back five carries, [I] tried hard to come in this season heaps stronger in the way I run and get myself more involved in the game because I know my strengths,” the winger said.
“I try and do my job every week and obviously just want to win and the boys want to win as well.”
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Kiraz has had a remarkable year since debuting in Round 7 against the Broncos. This earned him a two-year contract extension, as the Bulldogs try and lock away their future.
“I’m loving it here especially with the Bulldogs, they gave me the opportunity to debut. I wanted to improve on myself to get back into the team and every week I’m learning different skills,” he said.
“I can become way better than what I am now and do way more for the team.”
He has cemented himself in the starting winger position alongside former Blues player Josh Addo-Carr. Kiraz explained that Addo-Carr has helped mentor him in becoming a better player than he ever was.
These two players can cause havoc for the opposition down the wings in years to come.
“He’s been huge especially when I first came here and played wing. He’s been huge on telling me where to stand defensively and all movements,” the winger said when speaking about Addo-Carr.
“He’s experienced, he’s played Origin, he’s played Australia, so [he has] been huge on me.”
The experience of playing first-grade rugby league is still a surreal one to Kiraz.
The young gun admits he is trying to get used to being recognised in the streets by fans. While it’s overwhelming for him, he is happy to take the time to sign items and take photos with fans.
“If I go to the main areas probably Paramatta I do, I get lots of head turns and it’s different [with fans] asking for photos,” Kiraz said.
“[The] first couple of rounds it was a bit overwhelming. Cause I’m real close to my family I’ll be walking with my brothers and they’ll be shocked as well that people are looking at me. Now I’m getting used to it, so it’s alright.
“I always want to make time for everyone. I remember when I was a kid I always used to go up to players. I want to always pay back.”
Kiraz recalls being in a similar position himself, describing who he admired when he was younger. He spoke on his favourite memories growing up and watching footy down at Belmore.
“Josh Reynolds, [I was] a big fan of him,” Kiraz said.
“That Belmore game when he was on the bench, Belmore was packed out. He was on the bench and all the fans were waiting for him to get on. It was crazy.”
Kiraz is hoping to inspire the younger generation with his creativity and skills. He is wanting to inspire others and wishes he can make memorable moments at Belmore, just like his hero Reynolds. More pressing than that though is a win this week.
The Titans are sitting at 15th on the ladder heading into the clash, just one spot under the Dogs. If the Titans are able to win this week, there is a possibility they can leapfrog their opposition into 14th place.
After a close game against state rivals the Brisbane Broncos, they will be hoping for revenge. Receiving their State of Origin selected players back will certainly help. As finals season looms, neither team wants to be known as the 2022 NRL wooden spooners.
The Bulldogs are coming off the bye round, with dominant displays against the Paramatta Eels and Wests Tigers. Unfortunate not to beat the Rabbitohs last week they were still able to put 28 points on the scoreboard.
Now sitting at 14th on the ladder, a win this week will see them in 12th place. This will advance them over the Warriors and Knights.
The Bulldogs and Titans will go head-to-head this Sunday at 2:00pm.
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