Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
It's a slogan that'd make a marketing genius proud, but Bulldogs fans have been warned to leave their "Willie, once a Dog, now a Cock" banners at home ahead of Friday's NRL clash with the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium.
In preparation for arguably the most explosive confrontation of the NRL season, officials from both the Bulldogs and Roosters have worked together to minimise crowd disruption for the match being billed as "The Showdown".
It is the first time ex-Dog Willie Mason will face his former teammates since walking out on the club on November 15 to join the Roosters in the offseason.
Once a poster-boy for the blue and whites, Mason is now public enemy No.1 with his former fans and Bulldogs diehards have planned a variety of ways to greet him on Friday night, including T-shirts, banners and even turning their backs on him in protest.
While stadium officials are hopeful of attracting the biggest regular season crowd of the year, they are warning fans to be well-behaved or face eviction.
"The enjoyment and comfort of our fans is the top priority," said stadium spokesman Kyle Paterson.
"Poor behaviour, bad language and intoxication will not be tolerated."
Rabbitohs fans in the opening round clash with the Dogs were asked to remove a sign which also called Mason a "cock", and officials confirmed they will not tolerate obscene banners of a derogatory nature.
The Bulldogs have produced their own T-shirts for the occasion, however the "bred not bought" slogan on them is not considered offensive but rather a political statement about the rivalry between the two clubs.
Despite the animosity between Belmore and Bondi, both clubs have worked together to ensure a bumper crowd for the heated clash.
Roosters members were offered discounted reserved seats for the Bulldogs home game, however, these seats are conveniently located on level four of the eastern grand stand and on the opposite side of the field to most Dogs fans.
While the Bulldogs 'kennel', it's most passionate group of supporters, will take its pride of place in the north-east corner, the Roosters' 'chook pen' will sit in the south-eastern corner.
Both allocations are aimed at reducing the likelihood of crowd disturbances.
Coach Steve Folkes called on Bulldogs fans to maintain their good behaviour.
"They can barrack as hard as they like, I just hope and am sure they will live up to our code of conduct," said Folkes.
Dogs skipper Andrew Ryan knows his club's fans have been waiting for this day since Mason walked out, but as a player he just can't wait for the game to be over.
"Our fans have been pretty keen for the game to roll around so hopefully they turn out in their droves," said Ryan.
"It hasn't just been this week, there's been a fair bit of (media) talk for a few months.
"It would be good to just get the game over and done with.
"I don't want to talk it down but it is still worth two points."