Bulldogs v Rabbitohs: Five Key Points
The Bulldogs will head into the Telstra Premiership finals series on the back of three straight losses after going down to a resurgent South Sydney side 28-10 on Friday night.
Finals equation becomes clear
Friday night's result confirmed the Bulldogs would take on the Panthers in week one of the finals series, with Penrith able to leapfrog them into sixth spot on the ladder should they beat the Sea Eagles on Sunday night.
While it is yet to be determined as to when and where the sides will meet, their playoffs clash will be a replay of their 2014 preliminary final.
The Bulldogs will head into the elimination final on the back of three straight losses, but coach Des Hasler remained confident that his side had the ability to turn things around.
"It's all sudden death next week," he said.
"My experience is that it's an entirely different competition. We know what we have to fix. It's pretty obvious and if we do that then there's the capability and the ability in the side to win sudden death games; certainly the experience anyway."
Battle of the Brits boils over
Canterbury's chances of progressing to the second week of the Telstra Premiership finals could very well hinge on the availability of their inspirational skipper James Graham.
The Englishman faces a nervous wait after he was placed on report for lashing out at Rabbitohs lock Sam Burgess with his boot in the 52nd minute.
Graham was cleared to play on Saturday night by the match review committe to play in finals week one.
Graham took exception to Burgess's involvement in a tackle that he thought was already complete, but did not make contact with the rival forward with his boot.
"Obviously it's just on report, so I don't know. I guess we'll wait and see," Graham said after the game.
"I don't think any contact was made. I guess we'll see what they come up with. Obviously it's not ideal but we'll see what they decide.
"Obviously the referees have seen something there and penalised me [and now] I'll have to see what happens and deal with the situation."
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler said he didn't believe the incident warranted a suspension.
"I think the concern is the concerning act. That's as far as I think it should go," he said.
Plenty to be pleased about for resurgent Rabbitohs
Rabbitohs skipper Greg Inglis described 2016 as "an opportunity missed" by his side, but declared he was proud of the resolve to finish the year on a high.
Things looked to be spiralling out of control when they were thumped by 50 points against the Raiders, and although they lost to the Storm in golden point the following week – their ninth defeat in a row – they've recovered to finish the season with four straight wins.
The Rabbitohs could have easily had one eye on their end-of-season trips on Friday night, but instead played like a side on the brink of a finals campaign.
As they celebrated an 80th-minute try to Joe Burgess, the players got together in a huddle near the halfway line of ANZ Stadium.
"I praised them for their effort over this year, especially in the past month," Inglis said.
"We had players coming and going throughout the season and that's just the business that we're in. I got them in a huddle and told them that I couldn't be any prouder of their efforts throughout the season."
Joe Burgess leaves on a high
Rabbitohs winger Joe Burgess will head back to the UK just when he was starting to play his best football in Australia.
Originally signed by the Roosters, the English winger scored a double on debut but only managed three more matches for the Tricolours.
A mid-season switch to South Sydney breathed new life into his time as an NRL player, and with five tries in his last four starts, Burgess has shown enough to suggest he can be a star should he return.
Fittingly, the 21-year-old said goodbye to the NRL with a try from his final touch.
"Joe Burgess came mid-season from the Roosters and I think he had to make some tough choices on what he wanted to do and I think it was a great way for him to finish," Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire said.
"He's a real character among our players."
Bulldogs have to trust their kicking game
It's no secret the Bulldogs are reluctant to kick the ball on the last tackle when close to the opponent's line out of fear that they could concede a seven-tackle set.
They've been more than happy to die with possession in the red zone and then apply pressure through their defence.
In greasy conditions in Sydney on Friday, it seemed that tactic would change when halves Moses Mbye and Josh Reynolds were the only players from either side to warm up on the field.
The pair put in dozens of attacking kicks that pulled up in the in-goal, but once the match started, the pre-game practise was nowhere to be seen.
The tactic came back to bite them before half-time when a last-tackle play broke down allowing Rabbitohs winger Joe Burgess to scoop up the loose ball and race 85 metres to score.