The Battle of the Halves
With giant Canterbury and Cronulla forwards out with injury, the battle of the halves will go a long way to determining the outcome of Monday nights clash.
A second round contest between the Sharks and the Dogs would usually be played in the front line, the forwards stealing the show and dominating the headlines. However due to injuries to Sam Kasiano (ankle) and Greg Eastwood (foot) as well as Luke Lewis (shoulder), Anthony Tupou (knee), Paul Gallen (ankle) & Andrew Fifita (suspension), the halves will have to step into the spotlight.
Dogs five eighth Josh Reynolds made a successful return from injury last Friday night against the Broncos after undergoing a shoulder operation in the off-season. He showed no signs of a bad shoulder and was heroic in a side that only lost by one converted try. Reynolds even set up rampaging second rower Tony Williams for a try in the second half with a beautiful short ball close to the line.
Entering only his third full season of first grade (debuted mid 2011), the Bulldogs will look to Reynolds this year for some x-factor after the departure of Ben Barba. Representing NSW twice last year in Games 1 & 2, Reynolds goes head to head with former Origin 5/8 Todd Carney, who returns from a hamstring injury.
“He’s obviously missed out round one and he’ll be edging to get out there because his team didn’t start to well along with us, so we’ve got to make sure that if he plays, he’s a dynamic runner and he’s sharks go to player, so we’ll have to be on to him,” said Reynolds.
Partnering Reynolds in the halves for only the second season, Canterbury halfback Trent Hodkinson is looking to find the form that saw him represent City Origin in his first year of first grade back in 2010.
The blonde halfback will play his 50th game for the club this Monday night, after debuting for the club back in round 1 of 2011. His arrival at the club from Manly was followed by a horror run of injuries, which saw him miss out on the 2012 Grand Final against Melbourne Storm.
Hodkinson is deceptively fast and loves to take the ball to the line. He had a solid first round against Brisbane, kicking two goals from two attempts and also setting up a beautiful try to Josh Morris with a perfectly weighted cross-field kick.
Todd Carney will run out for his first game of season 2014 on Monday night, recovering from a hamstring injury he suffered in last year’s semi final loss to Manly at Allianz Stadium. Carney is the engineer of the Sharks attack and when he’s playing well, his side usually follows.
Winning the Dally M Medal for Player of the Year in 2010, Carney led the Sydney Roosters to their first grand final berth since the departure of club legend Brad Fittler in 2004. Following a run of off field incidents in 2011, Carney parted ways with the Bondi faithful and arrived at the Sutherland Shire in 2012.
Unsurprisingly, the Sharks have made the top 8 the last two years Carney has been wearing the number 6. He was re-payed with NSW Origin selection in 2012 and played all three matches.
Cronulla’s first choice halfback Jeff Robson (cheekbone/jaw/eye socket) will miss the start of the season, but former Canterbury five eighth Daniel Holdsworth will return to ANZ Stadium to fill his boots.
Holdsworth played for the Bulldogs over 4 seasons (2006-2009) before linking up with Salford and Hull in the Super League. Cronulla signed him as a back up to Jeff Robson in late 2013, however injuries have allowed Holdsworth to show that he’s still capable of playing at the top level.
Reynolds and Hodkinson are the less experienced halves combination, only having 134 first grade games between them (Hodkinson 73 & Reynolds 61) compared to Carney & Holdsworth, who have 235 games (Carney 158 & Holdsworth 77).