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Sydney Roosters v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Saturday 5:30pm at Industree Group Stadium, Gosford / Darkinjung

Central Coast sets the scene for rivalry without rep stars

The Sydney Roosters and Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will look to consolidate a place in the top eight when they face off without their representative stars on Saturday evening.

Opting to move a home game to the Central Coast for the 18th time in two decades, the Sydney Roosters will rate their chances of downing their in-form rivals despite missing a host of players to representative duties.

Unable to call upon representative quartet Angus Crichton, Connor Watson, Spencer Leniu and Lindsay Collins, along with injured centre Michael Jennings, from the side that downed the Eels 28-18 last Saturday, coach Trent Robinson has drafted in Dominic Young, Brandon Smith, Blake Steep, Sitili Tupouniua and Siua Wong.

The Roosters hold an imposing record of 15 wins from 20 meetings against the Bulldogs, along with nine wins from 15 matches without their representative stars prior to Origin, during Robinson's tenure.

Coming off a bye with levels of belief not sighted at the club for some time, the Canterbury-Bankstown will be hoping to post four straight wins for the first time this decade.

Sitting inside the top eight midway through a season for the first time in eight years, coach Cameron Ciraldo has been forced to alter his team with Stephen Crichton (NSW), Kurt Mann (suspension) and Jacob Preston (injury) unavailable; Jeral Skelton, Jake Turpin and Poasa Fa'amausili come into the side.

The Bulldogs have struggled without their representative stars in the years following Des Hasler's tenure, winning two out of seven, but were triumphant over the Knights under those circumstances earlier this season.

Winning seven of their 11 visits to Gosford historically, the Bulldogs will be aiming to record back-to back wins over the Roosters for the first time in eight years.

Last meeting: Round 5 2024 - Bulldogs 30 Roosters 26

Who to watch: Earning a recall after watching last week from the sidelines, Brandon Smith will be determined to atone for failing to attend a mid-year review with a starring performance. Generating plenty of media commentary over his future at the club, the 28-year-old New Zealand representative should relish the opportunity to silence his critics and get the better of Reed Mahoney in key personal duel. Regarded as a destructive ball runner despite weighing in under 100 kilograms, Smith will be looking to improve upon his average output of 61 running metres to help the Roosters come away with two valuable premiership points.

Overlooked for NSW after acting as 18th man in three of the past four Origin matches, Matt Burton will be raring to back up his efforts against the Roosters from earlier in the season. Collecting a hat-trick when the two sides met in rain-drenched conditions at the start of April, the 24-year-old has been a leading figure in the Bulldogs resurgence with eight tries, four try-assists and 91 running metres on average each week. Possessing a kicking game capable of terrorising opposition backlines, expect Burton to wield his trademark bomb with regularity on Saturday evening.

Favourite: The Roosters are expected to replicate their success over the Bulldogs at Gosford last season, where a Luke Keary field goal proved the difference in a 25-24 win.

My tip: Despite James Tedesco playing a club game prior to Origin for the first time since his days at the Tigers, the momentum enjoyed by the Bulldogs should carry on after the bye. Bulldogs by 8.

1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Fetalaiga Pauga 4. Joseph Manu 5. Dominic Young 6. Luke Keary 7. Sam Walker 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Brandon Smith 10. Terrell May 11. Nat Butcher 12. Victor Radley 13. Naufahu Whyte 14. Sandon Smith 15. Blake Steep 16. Sitili Tupouniua 17. Siua Wong 18. Ethan King

1. Connor Tracey 2. Jeral Skelton 19. Drew Hutchison 4. Jacob Kiraz 5. Blake Wilson 6. Matt Burton 7. Toby Sexton 8. Max King 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Samuel Hughes 23. Viliame Kikau 12. Jaeman Salmon 14. Jake Turpin 11. Josh Curran 13. Bailey Hayward 16. Kurtis Morrin 17. Lipoi Hopoi 21. Eli Clark

Referees: Grant Atkins; Sideline Officials: Drew Oultram, Jon Stone; Video Referees: Peter Gough;

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