Finals footy is a distant dream for the Bulldogs as their 2017 campaign has lurched from one mishap to another, and with Round 22 upon us, they have nothing more than pride to play for from here until the end of the season.
In stark contrast, the Parramatta Eels have enjoyed one of their best efforts in many years and are set to play finals football for the first time since 2009, when they were propelled through to an unlikely Grand Final on the back of Jarryd Hayne.
This time around, they have lost talismanic young star Clint Gutherson, but with stars like Corey Norman and Bevan French picking up the slack and Mitchell Moses bedding himself in and playing his best footy since his mid-season move from the Tigers, things are still looking up for the blue and golds.
2017 – Rd 17 Parramatta 13 def. Canterbury-Bankstown 12 at ANZ Stadium
2016 – Rd 9 Parramatta 20 def. Canterbury-Bankstown 12 at Parramatta Stadium
2016 – Rd 3 Parramatta 20 def. Canterbury-Bankstown 6 at ANZ Stadium
2015 – Rd 19 Canterbury-Bankstown 28 def. Parramatta 4 at ANZ Stadium
2015 – Rd 2 Canterbury-Bankstown 32 def. Parramatta 12 at ANZ Stadium
The Eels have won their last three games against the Bulldogs and have come out of a poor run in which they lost nine of ten games against the Belmore-based club from 2011 to 2015.
There will be little in the way of home advantage with the Eels taking up temporary residence at ANZ Stadium alongside their opponents this week, but given the contrasting seasons the two teams have had, the Eels seem more comfortable at the former Olympic stadium.
|Will Hopoate||1||1||Bevan French|
|Brett Morris||2||2||Semi Radradra|
|Josh Morris||3||3||Michael Jennings|
|Chase Stanley||4||4||Brad Takairangi|
|Marcelo Montoya||5||5||Kirisome Auva’a|
|Josh Reynolds||6||6||Corey Norman|
|Matt Frawley||7||7||Mitchell Moses|
|Aiden Tolman||8||8||Siosaia Vave|
|Moses Mbye||9||9||Cameron King|
|James Graham||10||10||Tim Mannah|
|Josh Jackson||11||11||Manu Ma’u|
|Adam Elliott||12||12||Tepai Moeroa|
|David Klemmer||13||13||Nathan Brown|
|Sam Kasiano||14||14||Daniel Alvaro|
|Raymond Faitala-Mariner||15||15||Kenny Edwards|
|Danny Fualalo||16||16||Suaia Matagi|
|Michael Lichaa||17||17||Peni Terepo|
|Francis Tualau||19||18||David Gower|
|Kerrod Holland||20||19||Will Smith|
|Asipeli Fine||21||20||Frank Pritchard|
|Brenko Lee||23||21||Josh Hoffman|
The Facts That Matter
While these two old rivals from some epic clashes in the 1980s facing each other to kick off this year’s ‘Retro Round’, there’s little to be excited about for the Bulldogs who appear about as far away from their glory days as ever.
Slumped down in 13th place on the NRL ladder and with internal strife thought to be rampant, Des Hasler and his side seem more likely to hunker down and wish away the rest of the season than coming out and cause an upset against a team riding high after securing finals footy for the first time since 2009.
In terms of the lineup, the Bulldogs welcome back the experience of Brett Morris from illness, with the former New South Wales and Australia winger pushing the average Kerrod Holland back to the reserves list in a move which dramatically increases both the attack and defence of the side on that fringe.
It wasn’t so long ago that the Bulldogs pushed the Eels to golden point, ultimately losing 13-12 after trailing 12-0 at one stage, but the chances of Canterbury doing the same this time around will hinge on their ability to both protect the football and create scoring opportunities for their outside backs.
While they haven’t been a free-spirited outfit with ball in hand throughout the year, the Bulldogs could free things up just a little bit with the pressure released and will need to score points to match it with an Eels side which has had no problems throwing the ball around across the park.
As with most weeks, the Bulldogs will want to make this game a grind through the middle of the park and if they can do that, they have a fighter’s chance of getting something out of the contest.
For the Eels, they will want to continue to do what they have been doing most weeks this season, free-flowing, exciting footy coupled with some big-boppers capable of dishing out the big hits in the middle of the park.
The Eels overcame the loss of Clint Gutherson to stifle and out-play a high-flying Broncos outfit last week at the same venue and will back themselves to have too much skill and attacking flair for the Bulldogs to contain them. Especially once Norman and Moses shift proceedings to the fringes, taking advantage of speedsters like Semi Radradra, Michael Jennings and Bevan French, who has slotted perfectly in as the custodian at the back.
Head coach Brad Arthur has named an unchanged 17 this week with his team coming through unscathed in the bruising encounter with Brisbane. Frank Pritchard, named as a reserve, could be inching closer to an NRL return, which could add further size and aggression to a forward pack led by Nathan Brown and Tim Mannah in recent weeks.
With five straight wins, the Eels represent one of the in-form teams in the competition and their biggest challenge this week may well be motivating themselves to ensure they don’t underestimate a Bulldogs side capable of grinding out results if things go their way.
Momentum is one the side of the Eels and there is a feel good factor about the Parramatta club across their large and passionate supporter base. A 2009-like run to the decider could be on the cards if things continue to click and Brad Arthur steers them in the right direction.
It’s almost impossible to tip the Bulldogs in this one. Weather conditions and the traditional greasy surface at ANZ Stadium could play to their benefit, but the Eels have played plenty of footy there as well and they’re playing too well to lose to the Bulldogs. Parramatta by 10-12 points.
Who will win this Thursday night blockbuster, the Bulldogs or the Eels? Let us know in the comments and poll below.
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