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4 days ago
Willie Mason believes the Bulldogs can beat any team if they can dominate the NZ Warriors' fearsome pack in Saturday's National Rugby League qualifying final.
Mason said the Dogs would have to play smart against the Warriors, whose forwards have been monstering the opposition over the past month.
"I think their forward pack is the benchmark so it'll be a good indication of how we're going," said the towering prop.
"If we can win and get over the top of them, I don't think any other teams are going to get us."
The Warriors have a huge pack weighing 618kg compared to the Bulldogs' 593kg.
And one of the highlights of Saturday's match at Sydney Showground will be Kangaroos tour aspirant Mark O'Meley's clash with Warriors prop Richard Villasanti, who smashed Brisbane's test prop Shane Webcke in tackle and left him needing stitches to his mouth in a round 24 clash in Auckland.
"We've got to go out there and just play real physical with them," said Mason.
"They love the confrontation. Our pack is up there as well and we're not going to take a backward step.
"We're not going to play bash and barge because they love that stuff.
"We'll have to play a bit smarter - maybe on the edges and run at their little blokes and just try and run some good football on them."
Mason said the expected return of five-eighth Braith Anasta from a broken foot after five weeks on the sideline would ease the pressure on Bulldogs playmaker Brent Sherwin.
He felt the Dogs had lost some bite without former international Anasta, who along with Sherwin and lock Travis Norton are the chief organisers.
Coach Steve Folkes has rated Anasta a 50-50 chance of making a comeback this weekend but Mason expects the 21-year-old to play, with No.6 Johnathan Thurston to drop to the bench or out of the 17-man squad.
While acknowledging Thurston was a dangerous player, Mason said the youngster lacked the experience and communication skills so evident in Anasta, who has played four Origins for NSW and four tests for Australia.
"Since Braith has been out there's been too much pressure on Shifty (Sherwin)," said Mason.
"He has to do everything. Other sides have a good halfback and a good five-eighth and I think Johnno is a bit inexperienced and he's not a great talker.
"With Braith back, Shifty and him are great organisers and Travis Norton.
"Once we get that triangle back, just the organisation and talk is important."
Sherwin has been carrying a lower back complaint for the past six weeks but he is crucial to the Bulldogs' chances of beating a Warriors side welcoming back Golden Boot player Stacey Jones from a groin injury.