The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs renew old rivalries this Sunday when they take on the Parramatta Eels at ANZ Stadium.
The Bulldogs will be looking to bounce-back from disappointing losses to both of the 2013 Grand Finalists, the Sydney Roosters and Manly Sea-Eagles in Rounds 11 & 13 respectively.
NSW and QLD Origin representatives will be unavailable for selection for their club sides in Round 14. For the Dogs, their halves of Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds will be missing, while Parramatta stars Jarryd Hayne & Will Hopoate also miss out on Sundays game.
Canterbury have the difficult task of replacing their halves this weekend, with back-up half Moses Mbye still out with a leg injury. Reni Maitua will play his second match for the Dogs this year and will be partnered by Damien Cook, spirited 23 year old who makes his club debut after playing his first top grade game for St George last year.
“Yeah I think they’ll go pretty well. ‘Cookie’ very quick and very agile and stuff like that, so he’s a tough competitor. And everyone knows what Reni’s like, he’s been top of his game for ten years now, so I think they’ll be well and truly up for the challenge,” added winger Mitch Brown on the new look halves combination.
Maitua, along with Tonga and Sonny Bill Williams, all debuted against Parramatta back in Round 1, 2004. The Bulldogs went on to win their 8th premiership that year before Maitua eventually left to join Cronulla, Tonga to the Cowboys and SBW to French Rugby.
Now 10 years later, Maitua faces off against his close friend Willie Tonga along with the teammates he played with for 3 seasons since he returned to the NRL. Maitua eventually departed Parramatta at the end of last year.
The Bulldogs currently have the strange title of being the second worst side for conceding the 1st penalty of the game. On 9 occasions this year, Canterbury has conceded the 1st penalty of the match, which is only bettered by Brisbane with 10.
On the other hand, the Bulldogs are second in the competition for completion rate, completing their sets of attack with 75% success. This is only second to Melbourne who are completing at 76%.
International forwards James Graham and Tony Williams have been massive this year. Along with rookie prop David Klemmer who plays small minutes off the bench, these three have statistically been massive. Graham averages 32 tackles and 14.5 hit-ups for 149m per game, Williams 18 tackles and 7 hit-ups for 116m and Klemmer 8 hit-ups for 87m.
The Bulldogs forwards, known for their size and brute strength, struggled a little in the horrible conditions last Friday night against Manly. If the Dogs are to stop Parramatta, Josh Jackson believes they will have to stop their young and energetic side.
“Their back five obviously get them going forward early on, their forward pack as well, their whole forward pack has been strong. If we can limit those boys going forward I think that will help us a lot going through the game,” said Jackson.
While Jacksnn concedes that losing Hayne and Hopoate is a big loss for Parramatta, he still believes they have the depth to cover them.
“They’re obviously key players for them, but like I said, those two boys step out and another two step forward. They’ll be looking for big games so we won’t be taking them lightly,” added the 22-year-old second rower.
Fijian flyer Semi Radradra, who’s only in his second year of first grade, has scored 12 tries this year at a strike rate of one try every game. Ken Sio has crossed 10 tries in only 9 matches, while Vai Toutai has grabbed 4 tries in 3 appearances this year.
Although the Eels cant match the Bulldogs for metre eaters, captain Tim Mannah and Manu Ma’u will both be trying to dent the Bulldogs defensive line. Mannah averages 12 hit-ups and 126m per game, while Ma’u averages 113m and 8.5 hit-ups per game.
Aiden Tolman misses his first game through injury since 2011; Sam Kasiano comes into the starting side, opening up the door for the first grade return of former Parramatta player Pat O’Hanlon.
Chase Stanley also came up with a knee injury late in the second half last Friday night against Manly and is scheduled to return by Round 19. Josh Jackson comes into the centres to cover Stanley, with Greg Eastwood moving to second row and Dale Finucane starting at lock.
Ken Sio moves from right wing to replace fullback Jarryd Hayne, with Vai Toutai covering Sio. Ryan Morgan fills in for Will Hopoate in the centres and mid season signing Issac De Gois (previously Cronulla) comes in for Luke Kelly.
The last time these two sides met was in Round 20, 2013. The Bulldogs were sitting in 6th position and Parramatta were well on their way to their 2nd wooden spoon in as many years. Canterbury were big winners 40-12, with 8 players in that losing side to line-up for Parra on Sunday.
Head to Head
Played 134, Canterbury-Bankstown 72, Parramatta 57, Drawn 5
At ANZ Stadium
Played 20, Canterbury-Bankstown 12, Parramatta 8.