With regular Bulldogs fullback Brett Morris racing the clock to be fit for round one, Canterbury's woes were compounded wih new recruit Will Hopoate succumbing to a knee injury in an NRL trial on Saturday night.
The former Parramatta back, who scored the opening try of the match, was bent back awkwardly in a tackle against the Penrith Panthers at Pepper Stadium, limping from the field in obvious discomfort in the Bulldogs' 24-20 loss.
Hopoate was expected to start the season in the No.1 jersey if Morris fails to recover from off-season knee surgery in time for the opening match of the NRL season against Manly on March 4.
However, the NSW centre appears to be in some doubt himself after exiting the field in the 39th minute, leaving coach Des Hasler with veteran Sam Perrett, rookie recruit Brad Abbey or Tyrone Phillips as likely options for the fullback jumper if the pair is unavailable.
However Hasler remains optimistic both Morris and Hopoate will be available, despite the latter leaving Pepper Stadium with an obvious limp and his left knee heavily strapped.
"He'll be okay, he just jarred it," Hasler said about Hopoate.
"So we just took him off for precautionary. We're pretty sure [Morris] will start [the season]. It's just maintenance."
Penrith coach Anthony Griffin will have a hard time leaving rookie recruit Te Maire Martin out of his side for the club's opening game against Canberra.
The former Wests Tigers playmaker was the star of the show for the Panthers, mounting a strong case to edge veteran Peter Wallace out of the halves for the trip to the nation's capital.
With regular five-eighth Jamie Soward away with the Indigenous All Stars in Brisbane, Martin was presented with a golden opportunity to build a case to make his NRL debut next month.
And the 20-year-old didn't disappoint, scoring a brilliant individual try before playing a hand in two other Panthers tries in his 60-minute hit out for his new club.
"I thought he was very good tonight," Griffin said of Martin.
"As he warmed into the game he got a bit better. As you see he's got a lot of strike in him. I was just really happy with him."
After an error-riddled 15 minutes, the Bulldogs opened the scoring through Hopoate, who carried a defender over the line to give his new club a 4-0 lead.
Penrith skipper Moylan sent a scare through the Panthers camp when he struggled to get off the deck after Greg Eastwood fell on him, but fortunately for the home side he managed to take his place back in the defensive line after being heavily winded.
Moylan spent some time in the halves, however Griffin suggested he would spend more time in the more familiar fullback role.
"I'll probably leave him at fullback for the moment and see how everyone else pulls up," Griffin said.
"As you saw today, he's come back from a really bad ankle injury so he just needs some time on the field. He was a bit scratchy. The main thing with Matt is he got through that.
"He just needs some time on the field and we'll give him more next week ... Next week against Parramatta we'll have to get a lot closer to that team [for round one]."
The Bulldogs raced out to a 14-0 lead but tries to Elijah Taylor and Te Maire Martin saw the Panthers reduce the deficit to two points at the break.
With the scores locked at 20-all, Josh Hall crossed in the corner in the dying minutes to give Penrith the victory.