Full Time
7:50pm Thu May 23, 2024
Round 12 - Accor Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park / Wanngal - Crowd: 15442

Round 12: Bulldogs v Dragons preview

Rebuilding rivals clash in Indigenous Round opener.

Indigenous Round gets underway on Thursday night with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and St George Illawarra Dragons facing off on the lands of the Burramattagal and Wann-gal Peoples.

Returning to Accor Stadium following back-to-back losses on the road, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will be looking to maintain their standing as the equal third best defensive team in the league, having averaged just under 18 points per game. 

Squandering a second half lead to go down 24-20 to the Raiders in the opening match of Magic Round last Friday, coach Cameron Ciraldo will welcome back Jaeman Salmon in the second-row in a forward reshuffle that sees Poasa Fa'amusili drop to the extended squad.

Chasing consecutive wins over the Dragons for the first time since Des Hasler's tenure at the club, the Bulldogs prevailed in Indigenous Round last season but have struggled in the annual fixture historically with two wins over the last seven years.

Coming into the middle-third of the season well-rested after being drawn a bye in Magic Round, the St George Illawarra Dragons will be eyeing off back-to-back wins during a rare appearance at Accor Stadium.

Playing at the Olympic Stadium for only the fifth time since their last finals appearance, coach Shane Flanagan has named Luciano Leilua in place of Ben Murdoch-Masila on the bench.

The Dragons have won their past two matches in Indigenous Round, including a 34-24 victory over the Bulldogs at Belmore two years ago.

The Dragons recorded their greatest victory as a joint venture at Accor Stadium in the 2010 grand final; the venue has yielded little joy in the ensuing years with 12 wins from 34 appearances at premiership level.

Last meeting: Round 9 2023 - Dragons 16 Bulldogs 18

Who to watch: Few players will have more to play for this week than Gunggandji, Wiradjuri and Gadigal man Josh Addo-Carr as he presses his case for a NSW jersey. Regarded as one of the best Indigenous players of the NRL era, the 28-year-old speedster holds a solid strike rate in the annual celebration with five tries in seven matches over the years.

Enduring an injury-interrupted start to the year while going over a month without a try, look for Addo-Carr to play with purpose as the Bulldogs push for a win.  

Flying under the radar as one of the best value for money signings of the year, well-travelled forward Tom Eisenhuth has made a great contribution in the forward pack for his new club. Drawing on the lessons learned from his five-and-a-half year stint with Melbourne, the 31-year-old has appeared in every game, averaging 38 tackles with a tackle efficiency of 94 per cent.

Out of contract at season's end, Eisenhuth's defensive prowess will be invaluable as the Dragons look to back up their win against South Sydney prior to the bye. 

Favourite: The defensive proficiency of the Bulldogs is expected to be the difference in a contest between two Sydney teams striving to return to former glory.

My tip: While matches between the two sides have resulted in three wins apiece during the 2020s, the opportunity to record four consecutive wins at Accor Stadium for the first time since 2016 should get the Bulldogs over the line. Bulldogs by 4.