The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs on-field performances have only been further mired by the turmoil the club is experiencing off-field with a gluttony of players being moved on due to salary cap pressures. Aaron Woods moved on to the Sharks without lasting just barely half a season and now with one of their favourite sons, Josh Morris, leaving from next season onwards to the Sharks they are in a massive rebuilding phase.
They possess a halves combination with two famous last names however the inexperience of these players and furthermore many of the rest of the squad has made life extremely difficult this season. The Bulldogs have just a miserly four wins to their name, however, have unearthed some potential players of the future in Lachlan Lewis and Rhyse Martin they must do everything in their power to hold on to them. Their last start was a narrow, heartbreaking loss to the Raiders, looking assured winners leading 28-14 with just over five minutes left, and the Bulldogs have been unable to create any winning momentum all season.
Whereas the Rabbitohs have had a season to remember so far with a rise in stock of many of their players translating into vastly improved on-field performances. Early on in the season, it was their attack that was winning many plaudits a display of speed out wide and invasive running up through the middle created by their strong forward pack. However recently their defense has won them as many games as their attack, holding out the Cowboys most recently for a 20-minute period in the first half that would have seen most sides concede at least once.
2018 - Round 4 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 20 def. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 16 at ANZ Stadium
2017 - Round 23 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 28 def. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 14 at ANZ Stadium
2016 - Round 16 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 28 def. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 10 at ANZ Stadium
2015 - Round 5 - South Sydney Rabbitohs 18 def. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 17 at ANZ Stadium
2014 - Grand Final - South Sydney Rabbitohs 30 def. Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 6 at ANZ Stadium
South Sydney have strong recent form against the Bulldogs dating back to their 2014 Grand Final bout in which they were also strong victors. Whilst it has been a lean few years for both clubs since that Grand Final, the Rabbitohs resurgence this year has them strongly touted for yet another victory against the Bulldogs.
|Canterbury Bulldogs||South Sydney Rabbitohs|
|1||Will Hopoate||Alex Johnston|
|2||Brett Morris||Campbell Graham|
|3||Kerrod Holland||Hymel Hunt|
|4||Marcelo Montoya||Dane Gagai|
|5||Reimis Smith||Robert Jennings|
|6||Lachlan Lewis||Cody Walker|
|7||Jeremy-Marshall King||Adam Reynolds|
|8||Aiden Tolman||Thomas Burgess|
|9||Michael Lichaa||Damien Cook|
|10||Danny Fualalo||George Burgess|
|11||Josh Jackson||John Sutton|
|12||Rhyse Martin||Angus Crichton|
|13||Adam Elliott||Sam Burgess|
|14||Fa’amanu Brown||Adam Doueihi|
|15||Clay Priest||Cameron Murray|
|16||Ofahiki Ogden||Mark Nicholls|
|17||Greg Eastwood||Tevita Tatola|
|18||Asipeli Fine||Matt McIlwrick|
|19||Matthew Frawley||Braidon Burns|
|20||Francis Tualau||Dean Britt|
|21||Josh Morris||Kyle Turner|
The facts that matter
The two more experienced players within the Bulldogs spine in Hopoate and Lichaa need to take on a leadership role in this match and help the Marshall-King and Lewis steer around a side lacking confidence or any momentum. Marshall-King and Lewis were slick in the defeat against the Raiders and if this continues should Hopoate and Lichaa chime in the Bulldogs could cause a massive upset. Hopoate's support play will be integral to the Bulldogs finding points in this one and with great line runners in Elliot and Martin expect to see Hopoate following them at every chance looking for a four-pointer.
The Bulldogs leading the competition with the most ineffective tackles has largely contributed to seven of their losses by ten points or less. When the game is on the line just as it was last Saturday against the Raiders, the Bulldogs missed too many tackles that let the Raiders march downfield and score when other teams would have kept them at bay. They need to fix this up quickly or face having a cricket score put on them by the slick Rabbitohs of 2018.
The Rabbitohs merely have to stay focused on what has worked all season long, their attack has been so impressive they lead the competition for try assists with 49, line break assists with 58 and have engaged the line the most of any team, 221 times. Their constant and imposing attack can blow away the Bulldogs on Saturday with the likes of strong ball runners in Gagai, Johnston and Cook. Moreover, the Rabbitohs are equal first in terms of points scored this season with 401 and have won at a canter and grinding out some impressive narrow wins.
The Rabbitohs have the making of a premiership this season albeit they will have to work hard as ever with plenty of teams playing good football, this is one more chance to show their credentials. Drop a game and the Rabbitohs again form the chasing pack for the minor premiership, win this one and they may force a gap between themselves and those chasing them for first place. Whilst they will believe making the eight is all that matters, coming first will do wonders for their confidence in a season where not much was expected of them. That is even if since 2010 only three sides claiming the minor premiership have won the major premiership come seasons end.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs sit atop of the ladder going into this fixture and even without captain Greg Inglis have the superior side going into this one. Moreover, with eight wins in a row at the moment, I'm tipping for their momentum to carry on further making it nine wins in a row with just seven weeks of the regular competition left to go. I'll go with the Rabbitohs by 12 points or more.
Can the Bunnies keep their good form going, or will the Bulldogs play spoiler at the pair's ANZ Stadium home? Let us know in the comments below.