NRL.com Bulldogs Mid-Season Review
Good Friday changed everything. Winning three of their first four games of the year, the Bulldogs' performance against the Rabbitohs to kick off the Easter weekend was looking like another tick in the win column for Des Hasler's men. That was until an ill-fated dive from James Graham, when attempting to charge down an Adam Reynolds field goal attempt, would injure the Rabbitohs halfback's knee. The collision was the impetus behind their descent into crisis as they lost the game and Graham was later suspended and many others would spend varying periods on the sideline. Losing four of their next five, it's only been the past fortnight where the Bulldogs have looked to return to their dominant early-season best after beating Canberra and the Dragons.
The run home: Beside this weekend's clash against the Titans, the Bulldogs will spend their next five games at either ANZ Stadium or Belmore Sportsground. It's a stretch of fixtures which will be vital for competition points. Otherwise, their draw is fairly balanced as they face an equal amount of teams not in the top eight and vice-versa.
Game to remember: Nobody will forget the Bulldogs' epic clash with the Raiders in Round 11 anytime soon. After racing to a 26-0 lead, the game ended up at 34-all before five-eighth Josh Reynolds kicked a field goal from out wide in the final minute and Moses Mbye scored with mere seconds remaining to seal an amazing 41-34 win – their first in three weeks.
The one that got away: Hard to go past the Bulldogs' Good Friday clash against the Rabbitohs. Considering they were well in control of proceedings for the most part until Bryson Goodwin's controversial penalty goal, following Graham's aforementioned clash with Reynolds, it truly was the one that got away and a season-changer at that.
MVP: With the make-up of their forward pack chopped and changed almost every week, Aiden Tolman has been a constant rock in the middle of the field. Their captain for most of the year, Tolman has been inspirational for the Bulldogs, demonstrated by his 154.7 metres and 37.2 tackles per game.
Stats that matter: Amazingly the Bulldogs have conceded the second-fewest penalties (68), second-fewest errors (107) and the fewest missed tackles (251) in the competition. However undoing all their good work is the fact they have conceded the fifth-most points (272).
Fantasy stud: Young-gun Michael Lichaa has grabbed NRL Fantasy by the horns this season. Quickly establishing himself as an 80-minute hooker, Lichaa has not only made the most money out of anyone at the club for Fantasy coaches ($154,000) but is also averaging the most points per game (53.2).
Injury report: The loss to South Sydney on Good Friday was a sliding doors moment for the Bulldogs which saw the Morris twins and Tim Lafai injured as well as Graham, David Klemmer and Sam Kasiano all suspended. Throw in the fact Trent Hodkinson, Josh Jackson, Klemmer and the Morrises are all playing Origin and Tony Williams (pectoral) is out for the season and it's a credit to them that they are still in the top eight.
What they are saying: "It was always going to require something special. We walk out of here now with the two points, and we needed the two points given the nature of the competition." – Coach Des Hasler describing their dramatic Round 11 clash against the Raiders.
Predicted finish: If they continue with the way they have been over the past fortnight then all signs are pointing to finals football. Once Origin is done and they get back their five representative stars permanently they should scrape into the top eight.
This article first appeared on NRL.com