Round 8: Bulldogs v Rabbitohs preview
Historic rivals meet in Sunday evening showdown
Showing plenty of effort - but lacking the class to convert into points - the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will be determined to get off the bottom of the premiership ladder with a win.
Unable to keep up with the Wests Tigers during last Sunday's 34-6 defeat at Bankwest Stadium, coach Dean Pay will be hoping to avoid the club's worst start to a season in 24 years after managing a single win over the first seven rounds.
Losing experienced fullback William Hopoate for up to eight weeks with an ankle injury, the ensuing backline reshuffle sees Dallin Watene-Zelezniak revert to the number one jersey, with Nick Meaney and Christian Crichton coming onto the wings.
Producing one of their worst performances in years during last Thursday's 20-12 loss to Penrith, the South Sydney Rabbitohs will be eager to amend against the competition cellar dwellers.
Winning their past two matches at Bankwest Stadium by big margins, coach Wayne Bennett will be hoping his side can continue a strong run over the blue and whites that has yielded six wins from ten clashes in the years since the 2014 grand final.
Promoting former New South Wales representative James Roberts into the starting side in spite of an underwhelming 21-minute return last week, highly-rated centre Braidon Burns will come off the bench for the third time in his career.
Who to watch: Enduring a turbulent run of injuries and off-field dramas over the past five years, Kieran Foran has shown moments of class since making his way back onto the field. Suffering a serious shoulder injury while representing New Zealand during last year's Lions tour, the 29-year-old playmaker has strengthened the Bulldogs' struggling attack over the past four rounds with two tries and an assist - while serving as an experienced hand to complement Fijian youngster Brandon Wakeham. Earning rave reviews for his performance against the Rabbitohs last season, look for the veteran half to be a prominent figure in the outcome of Sunday's match.
Following in the footsteps of his older brother by transitioning from the halves into the forward pack, Bayley Sironen will be aiming to increase his game time on Sunday evening. Crossing for his first try in the top grade during last Thursday's loss to the Panthers, the 23-year-old utility has shown glimpses of promise since shifting to Redfern from the Tigers last season. Playing alongside current teammates Latrell Mitchell, Tom Amone and Hame Sele in the 2014 Australian Schoolboys team, look for Sironen to showcase his skills with the ball as the Rabbitohs aim to bounce back against their former grand final foes.
The favourite: Averaging 28 points in their three appearances at Bankwest Stadium post-lockdown, the Rabbitohs are expected to have too much strike power for the Bulldogs to contend with.
My tip: While the Bulldogs will try their hardest - as they do every week - the harsh reality confronting the proud club is they simply lack the talent to compete against the likes of Latrell Mitchell, Cody Walker and Damien Cook. Rabbitohs by 18.