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The Bulldogs are the real ?dark-horse? when focusing on who is going to take out the 2005 Telstra Premiership. Despite being the defending premiers, the Dogs name has seldom been mentioned in reference to their possible back-to-back premiership aspirations. It has been over ten years since a team won back-to-back Grand Finals in a unified competition* Brisbane defeated St.George in 1992 and 1993 but since those two years, no team has been able to defend their crown.
So why the Bulldogs? Currently sitting in 9th position on the ladder it is far from the predicted outcome for Bulldog fans after eight rounds. The key aspect to the Bulldogs team is that they have found out how to win again. After a destructive first-half display against St.George Illawarra in Round One, it was not until the seventh round, where the Bulldogs would taste victory again. Two wins in successive weeks has led me to believe that the Dogs are the real deal. If you look at other clubs such as the Cowboys, Eagles, Broncos and the Sharks they are at basically full-strength squads. It is also debatable whether or not these teams could perform any better then what they have shown already this season. But the Bulldogs are a complete different story.
Forget the departures of Price, Scott and Thurston, rather look to names such as Myles, Armit and Morrin. These three players are starting to find their feet in the NRL team and are developing into a well-performing unit. The key aspect to look at is the Bulldogs injured list. Apart from injuries to Premier League players Trevor Thurling and Brett Oliver the Bulldogs will expect to have all their big-guns ready come the business end of the season.
Adam Perry, Willie Mason, Sonny Bill Williams and Mark O?Meley are all sidelined due to injury, but the quartet will return to the field before the semi-finals. Nuggetty hooker Adam Perry is expected back in a fortnight. Sonny Bill is expected back within a month, whilst the Australian duo of Mason and O?Meley are set to return to the NRL six weeks before the final series. If the Bulldogs are floating around 5th or 6th position when the stars start to return they will gain momentum and will be hard to beat in September.
If the Dogs continue to scrape away with victories whilst without their stars, expect them to press hard for back-to-back premiership titles.
*Brisbane won the Super League Grand Final in 1997 and the NRL Grand Final in 1998