Round 14: Canterbury v St George Illawarra preview
The Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs return home to Stadium Australia for the first time since Round 8, for their now-traditional Queens Birthday meeting with the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Canterbury are coming into this after a hard fought two points earned from the bye... oh yes, and the five straight losses before that, the most recent being a 30-4 loss to Penrith in which the 'Dogs got strangely positive reviews for a heavy loss. This should tell you how low the bar has been set.
The Red V are coming in off the back of a huge 52-24 win over the Brisbane Broncos, which snapped a three-game losing streak.
In team news, well - both teams don't have to worry much about State of Origin wreaking havoc on their lineups.
Chris Smith's suspension has been completed, however coach Trent Barrett has not seen it fit to name him, while Deitz (injured) and Jackson Topine (baffling omission) have come out of the side. Then there's the mystery of key off-season signing, halfback Kyle Flanagan. Not named in the NRL starting side, not named in NSW Cup again, and not on the injury list. I'll just leave it at that.
The Saints have named the exact same 17 as last week. For this Bulldogs fan, this is an extremely foreign concept, and I am supremely envious!
Last time they met - just five rounds ago at Kogarah - saw an easy 32-12 victory for the Dragons. And if we're honest, where they very easily could have run in 50-plus.
St George Illawarra have now won 4 of the last 5 clashes between these two sides.
Who to watch: I'll be watching to see what the Dragons' backline is going to do to the Bulldogs' out of form, slow, and out of position fullbacks, wingers and centres. I'm expecting Mikaele Ravalawa and Matt Dufty in particular to have an absolute field day.
Canterbury's team selection is not rewarding form, or punishing a lack of it. All we have is Luke Thompson being the shining light in an otherwise depressing season. He is brilliant - and will lead from the front again.
My tip: The Dragons should win this rather comfortably. St George Illawarra by 20.