Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Finally the Mitsubishi Electric Bulldogs and Roosters meet in a game that means something.
The two teams met only once last season with the Mitsubishi Electric Bulldogs recording a grueling 24-12 win in round 19.
This Saturday the two teams go head to head in the preliminary finals with the winner advancing to the grand-final.
This season has been a roller coaster ride for Dogs fans with their team struggling early and then putting together a string of huge wins and then suddenly a couple of average performances before a brilliant semi final win over the Storm last weekend.
In comparison the Roosters have displayed a degree of consistency that all teams would envy. The Roosters are yet to suffer a loss of more than 10 points and their biggest losing streak being two games.
The last time that the Roosters suffered defeat was a 10-8 loss to the Broncos back on 27 June after the third State of Origin.
Yet when you read the two comparisons you also need to consider that the Roosters have not beaten the Mitsubishi Electric Bulldogs since round 6 in 2001. This season the Dogs have been victorious twice over the Roosters, 32-26 in round 9, and 28-18 in round 13.
After a weeks rest the Roosters will be freshened, whilst the extra game for the Dogs will surely have them in a confident frame of mind.
The Roosters have built their success on their super fitness and swarming defence. With the relentless tackling of Ricketson, Crocker, Morely and Fitzgibbon and the class of Fittler, Wing and Minichiello the Roosters are the yardstick for the remaining teams in their premiership quest.
Mitsubishi Electric Bulldogs coach Steve Folkes will be looking for his charges to continue with a similar performance from last weekend. Folkes will be stressing a low mistake rate and an 80 minute performance from all players.
Mitsubishi Electric Bulldogs centre Nigel Vagana needs only one try to equal his Bulldogs club record for most tries in a season. Vagana set the mark in 2002 with 23 tries and a double against Melbourne last Sunday took him to 22 this season. Vagana has now scored 98 tries in premiership matches and is poised to become the first New Zealand-born player to reach the century.
Bulldogs' record-breaking winger Hazem El Masri is expected to move past former grand final hero Steve Gearin and into third position on the club's all-time premiership point scorers list. El Masri joined Gearin on 1,006 points last Sunday. Daryl Halligan holds the Bulldogs' all-time point scoring record with 1,490 points, ahead of Terry Lamb on 1,276.
Saturday 27 Sept 03 NRL Preliminary Final 1 @ Aussie Stadium Kick-off: 7.30pm (aest) Referee: Bill Harrigan