Bulldogs v Sharks preview

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Inconsistent Dogs face off against competition leaders

Unable to withstand the might of the Raiders last Sunday, the Bulldogs return to ANZ Stadium hopeful of a better performance with a stronger side. With Josh Morris, David Klemmer and Josh Jackson named to play after representing the Blues on Wednesday night, Canterbury will be hopeful the trio makes it through the Origin opener unscathed, while fullback William Hopoate makes his return to the NRL after sitting out the past three Sundays due to religious reasons. Having dominated recent meetings between the two sides, Canterbury will have high hopes for a similar result on Monday night, as well as being buoyed by loss to Cronulla at Belmore Sports Ground late last season. Josh Jackson will play his 100th NRL game on Monday, after debuting with the Bulldogs in 2012.

Refreshed having come off the bye, the Sharks will head into Monday night full of confidence, as they look to extend the winning run to nine-in-a-row. Fielding the same squad that downed the Sea Eagles a fortnight ago, coach Shane Flanagan will be hopeful NSW trio Paul Gallen, James Maloney and Andrew Fifita take advantage of the extended recovery time between the Origin opener and Monday night. Having proven themselves capable of blowing teams away with attacking class or grinding away to a gutsy win, the Sharks will head into the match confident given their strong form, but wary of the threat posed by a Canterbury side bursting with potential game-breakers.

Last meeting: Round 20 2015 - Bulldogs 16 Sharks 18

Who to watch: Making his first appearance for Canterbury since Round 9, William Hopoate will be looking to make an impact from the back of the field for the Bulldogs. Returning after his self-imposed religious exclusion, the dynamic fullback can expect plenty of pressure, with the likes of James Maloney expected to target him under the high ball, while his match fitness may be leave the home side in a precarious position. Having shifted from the centres over the off-season, Hopoate has provided the Blue and Whites with an additional attacking option and could prove dangerous against the high-flying Sharks.

It wasn't long ago that Ben Barba was setting the rugby league world on fire with the Bulldogs, but after a few lean seasons the dynamic number one is back to his best for Cronulla. Coming off the bye, the fullback will be primed to tackle his former club and have his sights set on ensuring the Sharks remain atop the premiership ladder. Capable of causing havoc from anywhere on the field, Barba will have the Bulldogs on high alert, but with so many threat across the Sharks side, his presence alone will ensure Cronulla head into the fixture full of confidence.

The favourite: While the Bulldogs have struggled for consistency throughout 2016, the home side is favoured slightly to take advantage of the competition leaders.

My tip: With both sides missing key players through Origin duty, look for the Bulldogs to break the Sharks winning run on Monday. Bulldogs by 4.

1. William Hopoate 2. Curtis Rona 3. Josh Morris 4. Kerrod Holland 5. Sam Perrett 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Moses Mbye 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Michael Lichaa 10. James Graham 11. Josh Jackson 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. David Klemmer
Interchange: 14. Sam Kasiano 15. Adam Elliot 16. Tim Browne 17. Craig Garvey

1. Ben Barba 2. Sosaia Feki 3. Jack Bird 4. Gerard Beale 5. Valentine Holmes 6. James Maloney 7. Chad Townsend 8. Andrew Fifita 9. Michael Ennis 16. Jayson Bukuya 11. Luke Lewis 12. Wade Graham 13. Paul Gallen
Interchange: 14. Ricky Leutele 15. Chris Heighington 10. Sam Tagataese 17. Joseph Paulo

Referees: Ben Cummins, Matt Noyen; Sideline Officials: Jeff Younis, Kasey Badger; Video Referees: Bernard Sutton, Luke Patten, Jason Robinson

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