Bulldogs v Roosters preview

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Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Sydney Roosters Friday 6:00pm at Accor Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park / Wanngal

Grand final rematch from before I was born

This round marks the 20-year anniversary of the Bulldogs triumph over the Roosters in the 2004 NRL grand final - where the underdogs (no pun intended) from Canterbury will look to repeat their antics from the past.

Both the Bulldogs and the Roosters come into Saturday's clash following losses - and scorelines more competitive than their performances reflected. With last minute tries bringing down their deficit to 4 and 6 points respectively, the two sides looked closer in the fight than they were.

Sydney were favourites last week against a depleted Panthers outfit, but looked flatter than a bottle of lemonade opened over Easter as the ‘next man up' mindset of the reigning premiers shined through. They went down 16-22, but went the majority of both halves without scoring points in what was a worrying performance.

On the contrary, Canterbury-Bankstown were something of a dark horse against a significantly underperforming South Sydney team. Few expected them to win, but an upset was still potentially on the cards. Ultimately, they were hampered by unfortunate injuries and an ill-disciplined sin bin - losing 16-20.

The Bulldogs have been forced into a number of changes, with a concussion to veteran winger Josh Addo-Carr seeing young flyer Blake Wilson take his spot. A broken jaw to Jacob Preston and Kurt Morrin's suspension makes way for Josh Curran to get a crack in the starting 13, with Harrison Edwards and Kitione Kautoga joining the bench. The only voluntary change for the Dogs is Samuel Hughes being promoted to the starting side and Liam Knight dropped to the interchange. 

The Roosters are in a much better situation team wise, boosted by the return of dominant prop Lindsay Collins. This sees Terrell May return to the bench. Fan favourite Angus Crichton starts in his first game since Round 17 2023, pushing Sitili Tupouniua to the bench, and Egan Butcher to the reserves.

Last meeting: Round 14 2023 - Roosters 25 Bulldogs 24

Who to watch: Fullback and skipper James Tedesco has defied the critics so far in 2024, with a strong season reminding us what he's capable of. Despite this, he was quiet against Penrith and will be wanting a dominant bounce-back game this week against a much weaker opponent in the Bulldogs.

Young halfback Sam Walker has had a mixed start to his season, with some glimpses of spark and brilliance, but a failure to control the game and come up with pressure building kicks has come under the spotlight at times. Though still learning, Sam needs to find some genuine consistency and cohesion in his combination with Luke Keary to elevate his game to the next level.

For the Bulldogs, halfback Drew Hutchinson will want to prove a point against his old club. Drew ran the ball 13 times last week, in a performance where he posed very little genuine threat to the opposition. With young gun Toby Sexton looking to edge him out of a starting spot, he'll need to prove his playmaking ability, and fast.

On a more positive note, new recruit Josh Curran has been phenomenal in his 4 matches for the white and blue. Coming off the bench so far, he has a chance to start in the 2nd row for the first time this year. Josh's impact and toughness has been an asset and with the potential for an 80-minute performance, he'll be able to show off his full potential.

Favourite: The Sydney Roosters are overwhelming favourites.

My tip: Although I like the style of footy shown by the Bulldogs in 2024 - and believe they have a brighter future than most predict, the Roosters will be just too strong I feel. Sydney by 16.

1. Blake Taaffe 3. Jacob Kiraz 4. Stephen Crichton 19. Bronson Xerri 5. Connor Tracey 6. Matt Burton 7. Drew Hutchison 8. Max King 9. Reed Mahoney 22. Chris Patolo 11. Viliame Kikau 13. Jaeman Salmon 14. Kurt Mann 10. Samuel Hughes 12. Josh Curran 15. Harrison Edwards 17. Kitione Kautoga 20. Toby Sexton

1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii 4. Joseph Manu 5. Dominic Young 6. Luke Keary 7. Sam Walker 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Brandon Smith 10. Lindsay Collins 16. Sitili Tupouniua 12. Angus Crichton 13. Victor Radley 14. Connor Watson 15. Naufahu Whyte 17. Terrell May 19. Egan Butcher 18. Michael Jennings

Referees: Grant Atkins; Sideline Officials: Kasey Badger, Clayton Wills; Video Referees: Todd Smith;

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