Canterbury believe the long-awaited return of James Graham is set to finally spark their sputtering NRL season and help them re-discover the form that drove them to last year's grand final.
One of rugby league's leading players last season, Graham returns against the injury-depleted Wests Tigers on Friday after serving his 12-match suspension for biting Billy Slater's ear in last year's decider.
Ben Barba's comeback since round four has largely failed to ignite the Bulldogs, who have won just two of seven games this year.
But the club is quietly confident England international Graham is the missing piece in the puzzle as they attempt to replicate their 2012 success.
On most measures Graham was one of the more important front-rowers in the game last year and Bulldogs coach Des Hasler is happy to have him back.
"He is the English captain, an international player and people would have seen what he did last year. He is an integral part of what we do," Hasler told reporters on Wednesday.
"James is really keen to get back on the park, he is an experienced player and he has a fantastic work ethic and he is in really good shape.
"It's his first game so it is like his season starts now. He is a pretty smart footballer so it won't take him long to get his match fitness."
Graham played 24 of the Bulldogs' 26 games last year off the bench but was still one of the most influential forwards in the competition.
He was ranked seventh in the NRL for metres gained across all positions, made the most runs for a prop, made the third most tackles for a prop and also played the third most minutes for his position.
Graham's return could also pave the way for a return to form of much-maligned second-rower Tony Williams, who has struggled badly since moving to Belmore in the off-season.
Back-rower Greg Eastwood, who re-committed to the club for a further three years on Wednesday, said Graham's return was sure to provide greater go forward for Canterbury.
"Tony is going well for us, he has been copping a bit but he is still learning how to play with us," he said.
"Graham will add that little bit more go forward for us ... and I'm sure Tony will come good."
Hasler said Graham, who has served a 12-match suspension through three end-of-season Test matches last year, two trial games and the opening seven games of this year, continued to protest his innocence over the Slater incident but that the matter was now closed.
"He has moved on. He has paid his price," Hasler said.
Back-rower Josh Jackson added: "He has done his time and he is ready to pay back the boys for what he did."
Hasler added Sam Kasiano was unlikely to join Graham for the match against the Tigers, saying he was still at least a week away from his return from a leg injury.
However, Hasler said he expected Tigers playmaker Benji Marshall to make an early return from a foot injury for the round eight clash.