Canterbury Bulldogs director of football Phil Gould has suggested Samuel Hughes could be the player to breakout in 2024 after being asked if there were any Jacob Preston-like stories to watch in the year ahead..

A young prop who can also slot into the lock forward role, Hughes made his first-grade debut for the Bulldogs during 2023, going onto play five games.

That debut came off the bench in Round 6 against the South Sydney Rabbitohs, with four games off the bench - in Round 9 against the St George Illawarra Dragons, in Round 10 against the Canberra Raiders and in Round 21 against the Penrith Panthers.

He also had a single start in Round 12 against the Gold Coast Titans at lock, although only managed 17 minutes.

Taking to Twitter, Gould revealed Hughes is the player most likely to follow Preston's stunning rise through the 2023 season, something that Gould correctly called during the last pre-season.

Preston was likely going to be named the rookie of the year in 2023 before a suspension took him out of the running, but he was well and truly in the top group of players at a struggling Canterbury outfit after coming from the clouds to secure a spot in the 17 during the opening rounds of the season.

Despite his limited minutes, Hughes didn't look out of place at NRL level during 2023, and has been impressive in the NSW Cup. Weighing in at 111 kilograms and standing at 193 centimetres, he brings size, and plays a role the Bulldogs are short on heading into 2024.

While the Bulldogs have been on a mass signing spree again over the off-season, they have fallen short at prop and in the middle third of the field, not made any better by the last-minute falling over of a contract for Siosiua Taukeiaho after a failed medical.

Canterbury have added Liam Knight from the South Sydney Rabbitohs, as well as Poasa Faamausili from the Dolphins, but they will do little to replace the losses of Tevita Pangai Junior, Franklin Pele and Luke Thompson on the depth front.

That means the club will be looking to younger players already in the system to stand up, of which Hughes is one. Kurtis Morrin, currently on a development deal, could be another the Bulldogs look to bring through during the 2024 season.

As it stands, Josh Curran may also play in the middle third of the field after shifting from the New Zealand Warriors in a surprise sudden move, while others in contention for spots in the middle include the reportedly on the outer Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Kitione Kautoga, Max King, the aforementioned Knight and Ryan Sutton, leaving Hughes with a feasible path to first-grade consistently in 2024.