Round 21: Canterbury v Wests Tigers preview
The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs host the Wests Tigers this Sunday afternoon, in a 2021 COVID Cup clash now to be played at an empty Cbus Super Stadium. This heavyweight contest was originally scheduled for Redcliffe - let's be honest though, even if crowds were allowed, Cbus would STILL be empty for this one.
The Bulldogs come into this clash on the back of one of their most insipid performances of the season - they just keep setting that bar lower and lower - this time in a 34-6 loss to the Titans, who were made to look like the Melbourne Storm at their absolute peak. The Tigers, not to be outdone, come into this after one of their most pathetic losses in club history, somehow losing the unlosable at the hands of a New Zealand Warriors side, that couldn't even name a full squad for their 18-16 victory.
Team news brings some welcome news for the Bulldogs. If last week's lineup was one of the most baffling this long-suffering Dogs fan has ever seen, then this week's is one of the most sensible (Mr Gould's influence perhaps? I think so). In one of the most exciting changes, Bailey Biondi-Odo comes in at halfback, replacing Kyle Flanagan, who has now surely played his final match in blue and white. Jayden Okunbor, who to put it nicely, has 'had a bit of a struggle in recent weeks' has been dropped in favour of Kiko Manu, in another promising selection for the club. Allan moves back to the wing from fullback, and Meaney returns to his actual position at fullback, Seumanufagai starts, bumping the anonymous Dylan Napa to the bench.
For the Tigers, captain James Tamou makes a welcome return from injury, along with Thomas Mikaele, and both come straight into the starting side. Moses Mbye will move to fullback to replace the impressive Daine Laurie, who is out for the rest of the season with a broken fibula. Michael Chee Kam will start in the centres as a result. Alex Twal and Joe Ofahengaue are shunted down to the bench. Zac Cini has been named on the bench to make his NRL return - he hasn't been seen since Round 9.
Last time these sides met was in Round 14 of the 2020 COVID Cup at Bankwest, with the Tigers winning a see-saw battle 29-28, a late Luke Brooks field goal proving the difference.
Last meeting: Round 14 2020 - Wests Tigers 29 Bulldogs 28
Who to watch: For Canterbury, excuse me for being rather excited to see Bailey Biondi-Odo playing at #6 this week. I have such high hopes for him - let's hope Barrett gives him the rest of the year to show what he has, rather than chopping him a week (or 40 minutes) later.
Who to watch for Wests Tigers? Really it's to see which Tigers team shows up on any given week. To be slighltly more specific, if the game-controlling, impressive version of Luke Brooks shows up, the Tigers will already be 75% on their way to victory.
The favourite: At the time of writing, Wests Tigers were $1.50 favourites.
My tip: It's Canterbury and Wests. Which team will disappoint their fans more? It really is a toss of the coin. Both teams have made positive changes to their sides. Both teams have something to prove after embarrassing last outings. I'll go out on a limb and predict this one will go to Golden Point. Canterbury by 1.