Time to look ahead to Sunday's decider! Rob Crosby has a full look at both teams and what to expect ...
19 hours ago
The word disappointing probably puts paid to the Bulldogs' performances so far this year... but is it really any surprise? The Canterbury club prides itself on thriving under adversity - and one would have thought 2007 would be no different, given some of the negative publicity once again flowing through the club's ranks.
One of the things to pinpoint in the Bulldogs' season thus far is the lack of cohesion as a team. This can come down to several factors - the side had a full contingent to choose from on only one occasion this season, and at other times premium first graders have been relegated to Premier League. As a result of this the team has not seen the same line-up for two straight matches, and the halves combination continually changing has unsettled the flow of their game.
The results themselves for the Bulldogs show the startling inconsistency that has plagued them so far. The inability to string together back to back wins since the Round 3-4 victories over the Titans and Rabbitohs has left the club dwindling in the middle of the competition and looking uncertain to be true contenders come finals time.
Standout player - Sonny Bill Williams. After much speculation on his injury prone career over his early years, he's finally holding together and putting some of the form on the board that helped his team to the premiership in 2004.
Most disappointing player - Daniel Holdsworth. Dropped to Premier League - say no more. Dropped off in defence a lot, although his kicking game was good in Sherwin's absence. Needs to aim up and take a bit more control from five-eighth.
Best signing - Lee Te Maari. Despite sustaining a shocking knee injury in the last few weeks, his performances and impact in the second row in the past month or so has been a shining light in an otherwise poor season so far for the club.
Most improved player - Reni Maitua. Consistently running at the line with much more vigour than previous years and proving a worthy lock so far in 2007. Much has been made of him going missing but his defence has been very committed in many matches this season.
Best Rookie - Jarrad Hickey. Despite debuting in 2006, this big unit has come of age in 2007 and been a consistent part of the side, earning starting spots during the Origin period thus far and leading from the front. Needs to work on his ball handling and ball security but is shaping up to be a worthy replacement for the departing Mark O'Meley - just needs a little more fire in the belly.
Best win - Round 4 v South Sydney 34-10. The Bunnies were a formidable opponent and despite missing Mark O'Meley to suspension the club stepped up and took to the new glamour club with ease. The 'Dogs quashed the pre-match hype to show the true grit the club is renowned for.
Most disappointing loss - Round 11 v North Queensland 16-26. After much talk about their disappointing form the team was expected to take to a post-Origin Cowboys side, but fell away to a 24-0 deficit before a short comeback that wasn't to be. Their night was typified when Willie Tonga dropped the ball in space with not a hand on him.
Coach to see out season? Despite previous speculation, Steve Folkes will remain here in 2007, 2008, and however else long he wants to stay. He's been in many more dire situations than this before.
Final position prediction - 6th-8th. Provided they can aim up over the remainder of the Origin period, and score wins over Brisbane and Manly in the next fortnight, the club will be well and truly back on track for their signature finals charge. If they fail to do so, things could get very ugly very quickly.
As the saying goes... the Bulldogs never lie down. Watch out NRL - these 'Dogs still have their bite.