It was never going to be easy. Take four of the best players out of any team and winning becomes all that more difficult but we managed. Weve got our first win and the long road to make up for last years grand final heartbreak begins again.


And so we return to the scene of this heartbreak, ANZ Stadium, in the unusual guise of an away team. Parramatta tried hard to claim the venue as their own but this is our home as seen by the massive show of Bulldogs supporters and the ease at which the team took control of the opening sets of the match. Up 10 nil in the blink of an eye it looked like it could be a long night for the Eels but Ricky Stuart has instilled confidence and improved the attitude of this Parramatta side and with the help of a few silly errors and penalties the game was soon back on level terms. Some Josh Reynolds brilliance with a solo try and a precision kick for Sam Perrett turned the momentum back in the Bulldogs favour and enabled us to take a 4 point lead into the break.


The second half was entirely different, dominated by defence. The Bulldogs made a series of errors continually surrendering possession but some tenacious defending was able repel everything Parramatta could throw at us. The score remained unchanged and the Bulldogs held on to claim their first victory of 2013. No Barba, Kasiano Graham or Pritchard. No worries. As usual Aiden Tolman led the way up front but he was well supported by a very young pack. It sure is great to see the depth in club and when the international stars return our rookies will be all the better for the experience.


Now comes the big test. Parramatta may have improved from 2012 but they are nowhere near the class of the reigning premiers the Melbourne Storm. The commitment the Bulldogs showed in defence throughout the second half gives us some hope but we will need to completely eradicate the errors if we are to have any hope of reversing the result of last year's Grand Final.


There is always added incentive when losing grand finalists meet their conquerors the following season but theres more to this match than making up for the hurt of last year. The Storm have long been widely regarded as the benchmark of the NRL but their dominance over the other teams can best be seen by the fact they have a winning record (i.e. more wins than losses) against all bar one other team. That one team is the Bulldogs where we are currently split at 15 wins each. The Bulldogs have held a winning record over the Storm since 2002 and I certainly do not want to surrender this just yet.


The trip to Melbourne has not been easy in recent times. The Bulldogs have not had any success there since 2005 however last year saw the closest game since Jake Webster's last minute try denied us in 2006. If that effort is to be matched we will need to make the most of every opportunity and minimise the chances given to the Storm. They have the capacity to score from all over the park so the Bulldogs will have to be switched on for the entire 80 minutes.


In the games the Storm have played this year they have not yet hit their best form but they have still thoroughly dominated their opponents. Hopefully the effect of travelling and the heat in which their previous two matches were played will take its toll but they have so much ability and toughness it mostly likely won't hamper them at all. Even if you target the 'big three' of Slater, Smith and Cronk they have plenty of talent on the fringes in Widdop, Hoffman Chambers and more who can hurt a team if they are given a chance.


Look for a big game from Michael Ennis coming up against the best number 9 in the game. Ennis has been tireless in defence over the first two matches and he will be keen to cut down the potent attack of the Storm. Also Tolman appears to be relishing the role as leader of the forward pack and will certainly be fired up against his former club. In the backs Krisnan Inu and Josh Morris have been relatively quiet by their standards in the opening matches so surely they are soon due to open their try scoring account. In the absence of Ben Barba, Josh Reynolds has been providing the spark in Dogs attack and we will again need a spirited performance from him if we are to trouble the Storm.


It's guaranteed to be a tough ask, heading down to Melbourne with a weakened squad but there is still plenty of talent that will take the field and there are plenty of supporters (myself included) who I know are making the trip to support the team.