The Canterbury Bulldogs are gaining a lot of attention for their recent impressive form, winning six of their past seven games – their one loss was a 16-4 defeat against the Wentworthville Magpies.
In those wins, the Bulldogs beat the Warriors 52-8 for their only loss at home, Mounties, the Cutters and also toppled the top-of-the-table Penrith Panthers 24-10 last round.
“We’re going well,” said Bulldogs coach Andy Patmore. “It’s a strange comp. It’s very tight. I think we’re one of the top four teams to beat. We’re certainly competing with the top teams, especially last weekend against the Panthers, which is a good sign.”
With many predicting the in-form Bulldogs as the competition’s team to beat, Patmore isn’t getting swept up in the excitement, instead focusing on their match against the seventh-placed Newcastle Knights in the “Back to Belmore” clash this Sunday.
“We just play a week at a time,” Patmore said. “Again, it depends on the players you get. We focus on the process each week and whom we get back from first grade. But it’s one step at a time.
“We’ve had basically the same group for a few weeks which is good. We’re also working pretty hard on our goal line defence. We’ve defended our line pretty well most weeks.”
Their defence will have to be on point to defeat the Knights and their speedy backline featuring Nathan Ross, Kerrod Holland, Pat and Chanel Mata’utia, as well as Honeti Tuha who bagged a hat-trick of tries last round.
“We certainly will have a good look at the Knights,” Patmore said. “They’ve got some very talented outside backs and a couple of big forwards too. They’re certainly desperate for a win as well. They’ll turn up ready to play. Their outside backs, like Jaelen Feeney who was with us a couple of years ago, have been very impressive for them.”
The Bulldogs possess plenty of attacking prowess as well, with a stacked backline including Jaline Graham, Chase Stanley, Jacob Loko, Corey Thompson and the VB NSW Cup’s leading try-scorer Tyrone Phillips with 18 tries – which is five more than the second-placed Ben Fritz of the Manly Sea Eagles.
A big day is planned in celebration of the Bulldogs’ 80-year anniversary with all three grades playing in the NRL club’s first Sunday afternoon clash at Belmore since 1998.
“It’s a really special day for us and the whole club,” Patmore said. “We play here every week but for the whole club, it’s a fantastic day. The Monday night (20-4 win against the Melbourne Storm in Round 16) was big but this will be bigger.”
BULLDOGS: 1 JALINE GRAHAM 2 TYRONE PHILLIPS 3 CHASE STANLEY 4 JACOB LOKO 5 COREY THOMPSON 6 MATT FRAWLEY 7 LINDON MCGRADY 8 ANTONIO KAUFUSI 9 DAMIEN COOK 10 DANNY FUALALO 11 DAVID MINUTE 12 ADAM ELLIOTT 13 LLOYD PERRETT 14 LEVI DODD 15 PAT O’HANLON 16 HERMAN ESE’ESE 17 JASON SCHIRNACK 19 BRAD CLARK 20 MAKAHESI MAKATOA COACH ANDREW PATMORE
KNIGHTS: 1 NATHAN ROSS 2 HONETI TUHA 3 PAT MATA’UTIA 4 CHANEL MATA’UTIA 5 KERROD HOLLAND 6 CARLOS TUIMAVAVE 7 JAELEN FEENEY 8 SAM MATAORA 9 GEORGE NDAIRA 10 PATERIKA VAIVAI 11 LACHLAN FITZGIBBON 12 JOSEPH TAPINE 13 TAMA KOOPU 15 JAMES TAYLOR 16 BRETT JARRETT 17 BEN TUPOU 20 DAMIEN SIRONEN COACH MATT LANTRY
This article first appeared on NSWRL.com.au