Storm claim victory in match of the year
6 hours ago | Robert Crosby
Two under-siege coaches face off with more than just two points on the line.
Oh, how the rugby league gods can be both so cruel and beautiful at the same time. For when the Bulldogs and Dragons run out on Monday afternoon, both coaches may as well be running out alongside them.
Paul McGregor and Dean Pay are both under enormous pressure and while they can make whatever calls the may please from the coach's box, their futures will be shaped by what we can see.
The 80 minutes on the field. And for both sides last week, it was 80 minutes that their fans would rather forget. It has spurred McGregor into action although Dragons fans still don't think he has got it right.
Ben Hunt has been shifted to five-eighth to try and free the much-maligned playmaker of the stresses of steering the team around. Adam Clune has finally been rewarded for strong form in the lower grades in previous seasons with a first-grade berth in the number seven jumper. Corey Norman slots in at the back with Matt Dufty left out.
As has already been pointed out, it was perplexing to say the least that McGregor would champion Zac Lomax as the side's first-choice fullback throughout the off-season only to dump him after one game. Now, Dufty has been snubbed after just two matches. How long does Norman have left? Longer than McGregor? It has been widely reported he too just has a fortnight left to save his job.
The Bulldogs may be struggling for form but they don't have to contend with the drama engulfing their opposition. Pay may be under pressure but he receives a huge boost with the return of five-eighth Kieran Foran.
Lachlan Lewis appeared on the outer when he was hooked midway through the Bulldogs' game with the Cowboys a fortnight ago but suddenly finds himself ahead of both Jack Cogger and Brandon Wakeham. Lewis has the potential with a varied passing game but his execution has really let him down. The return of Foran though should relieve pressure from the young playmaker and the entire team in fact.
Pay's men lacked their usual defensive fortitude last week but perhaps the return of Foran will give them enough confidence in their attack to know their work without the ball won't be wasted.
Last meeting: Round 13 2019 - Bulldogs 12 Dragons 36
Who to watch: Both sides have million-dollar playmakers who for differing reasons have not lived up to their price tag. Kieran Foran has been dogged by injury but showed glimpses of his best last year for the Bulldogs, finishing the season with 13 try assists and 10 line break assists from 14 games. Look for Foran to challenge the Dragons forwards early with his strong running game while also adding much-needed composure to Canterbury's attack in the red zone.
Meanwhile, could a move to the number six jersey be what Ben Hunt needs to rediscover his best? Hunt hasn't been hampered by injuries but has publicly revealed his mental health battle. The weight of expectations that have come with his price tag at the Dragons, whether you believe it is unfair or not, have not helped. With the added pressure of directing the side around at halfback it's no wonder Hunt hasn't always delivered. But he wasn't the problem last week. Norman, who has since moved to fullback, did not support his teammate enough. Hunt was trying to spark something and kicked for 587 metres - there's no doubting his efforts. He just needed a change and now can focus more on his running game, which is his most dangerous strength.
The favourite: The Dragons are slight favourites despite the drama surrounding the club.
My tip: The Dragons have the better side on paper but it has been like that for a long time. The Bulldogs are a far more settled side, welcome back Foran and are usually more dependable in defence. They're the safer bet here. Bulldogs by 10.
1. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak 2. Nick Meaney 3. Reimis Smith 4. Will Hopoate 14. Jake Averillo 6. Kieran Foran 7. Lachlan Lewis 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson 13. Adam Elliott 16. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 12. Dean Britt 15. Renouf To'omaga 17. Sauaso Sue 20. Kerrod Holland
1. Corey Norman 2. Jordan Pereira 3. Brayden Wiliame 4. Zac Lomax 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Ben Hunt 7. Adam Clune 8. Josh Kerr 9. Cameron McInnes 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Tariq Sims 13. James Graham 14. Trent Merrin 15. Blake Lawrie 16. Issac Luke 17. Euan Aitken
Referees: Henry Perenara; Sideline Officials: Todd Smith, Gavin Badger; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Bryan Norrie;