I hate the Bulldogs.
While I have very much enjoyed watching the Dean Pay era bleed into the Trent Barrett era and the Bulldogs go from failure to failure, one thing has been missing from this age of doggy disappointment: the Eels giving them an absolute bath on the field. Recent history holds a few solid but unspectacular wins and some far-too-close contests, but you have to go all the way back to round 23, 2005 for the last time the Eels absolutely wiped out the Bulldogs. I’m here for a half-century, there is no better time than now.
Parramatta will hit the field full strength (pending Origin resting) for the first time this year, against a team with an interim coach and an egomaniacal head of football with a reckless spending habit that would look you in the eye and promise you a blue sky was green. They’re a miserable excuse for a club and deserve an absolute walloping on Monday afternoon, one that I fully believe the Eels are capable of dishing out. Get ’em, boys.
Date: Monday June 13, 2022
Venue: Accor Stadium, Homebush
Kick-off: 4:00 PM AEST
Referee: Ashley Klein
Broadcast: Fox League, Kayo
Head-to-Head: Played 150, Eels 68, Bulldogs 77, Drawn 5
Odds: Eels $1.15, Bulldogs $5.50
Lines: Eels -15.5, total points 42.5
Fact: The Bulldogs record since the start of 2020 is 8 wins, 48 losses
Sixties Speculates (Odds quoted are NSW TAB)
No sir, I don’t like it.
There is nothing about this match that appeals as a punting proposition.
Parra should win very comfortably. We all know how that can play out. The odds of $1.15 offer no attraction, and the points start of -15.5 is too large for my liking against an old foe who might just lift.
I fear a week of money jiggle, jiggling would be the outcome after a bet on this one. Keep it folded in your wallet and look on.
And as always, if you do splash out, keep it responsible.
1. Clint Gutherson 2. Maika Sivo 3. Will Penisini 4. Waqa Blake 5. Bailey Simonsson 6. Dylan Brown 7. Mitchell Moses 8. Reagan Campbell-Gillard 9. Reed Mahoney 10. Junior Paulo 11. Shaun Lane 12. Marata Niukore 13. Isaiah Papali’i. 14. Makahesi Makatoa 15. Ryan Matterson 16. Oregon Kaufusi 17. Nathan Brown.
18. Tom Opacic 19. Jake Arthur 20. Mitch Rein 21. Bryce Cartwright 22. Ky Rodwell 23. Sean Russell.
If you stand on your front step in the chill of the winter morning, on the breeze you can hear the faint chant: Siii-voooo. Siii-voooo. Big Maika is back after a few impressive runs in reggies, ready to prove that the conventional wisdom of “you don’t recover from an ACL until your second year” doesn’t apply to freakish Fijian Fliers.
Sivo’s return forces Tom Opacic to the reserves, and is the only change to the side that beat the Raiders two weeks back. The extended bench is worth a look during Origin weekend, with a notable lack of specialist props indicating Brad Arthur’s faith in his stars to back up on five days’ rest. I had thought he’d take the chance to ease up on the big middles considering another five day turnaround following this against a tough Roosters pack, but if Reg and Junior are getting a rest it will be Makatoa and Kaufusi filling the gap.
One worry is a question mark over the health of Dylan Brown, who came out of the Raiders game with an ankle issue. If there is any doubt you would think Brad Arthur rests him, which gives Jake Arthur the callup. If that happens, hopefully this time Mitch Moses really stands up and takes over the game.
1. Jake Averillo 2. Jacob Kiraz 3. Aaron Schoupp 4. Corey Allan 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Matt Burton 7. Kyle Flanagan 8. Ava Seumanufagai 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 10. Paul Vaughan 11. Josh Jackson 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. Max King. 14. Zach Dockar-Clay 15. Corey Waddell 16. Joe Stimson 17. Chris Patolo.
19. Matt Dufty 20. Bailey Biondi-Odo 21. Kurtis Morrin 22. Isaac Lumelume 23. Tevita Pangai Junior.
It isn’t exactly a lineup that strikes fear into your heart, this one. Matt Dufty has been dropped for the Jake Averillo experiment to continue, this time as a fullback. As a halfback he made an excellent centre and I didn’t see much from him last week that suggests he’s any better a fullback. He should be targeted early and often.
This might actually be the best backline combination the Bulldogs have, with raw rookie Jacob Kiraz earning a wing spot while Aaron Schoupp has some potential as a centre. Burton and Flanagan haven’t quite been oil and water as a halves pairing but they certainly aren’t a pleasant mix like milo and milk or Jack and coke.
In the pack, Tevita Pangai seems unlikely to return from injury, leaving ultimate journeyman Ava Seumanufagai with the start. Raymond Faitala-Mariner is making his return from a long injury layoff but is still well from his best. That bench, well, let’s just say I don’t think Zach Dockar-Clay will be having a Bailey Simonsson style revenge game this week. Maybe if he was playing against Wentworthville it would be a more appropriate vengeance. On his third Bulldogs coach Joe Stimson has dug his way out of the doghouse and earned a bench role, hopefully he remembers how to play footy.
The Bulldogs don’t require much of a proper breakdown, not just out of disrespect but because their problems are so basic. They let tries in everywhere and they are a train wreck of an attacking side. It is so bad that their fans are talking about an attacking renaissance over the last three weeks because they’ve scored 22, 24 and 18 points, each time losing by double digits, twice to bottom feeding clubs the Dragons and Tigers, and one more to Penrith’s reserve grade side.
The real bad news for the Bulldogs is that it is their right edge that concedes most of their points, lining up against a refreshed and rejuvenated Maika Sivo. They’ve struggled to even look like scoring with their structured attack, and it feels unlikely they’ll be able to put together spreads to test the presumed Sivo/Blake combination that hasn’t exactly dominated in defence in the past. Maybe they’ll find some luck with trick plays to Josh Addo-Carr, but they’ll need to score 30 to win this one and I don’t think the Foxx crosses for five here, even in “Origin revenge mode”.
The Bulldogs’ problems are pretty basic: they don’t hold the ball well, they don’t run the ball well, and they don’t defend well. They bottom the league in line breaks and tackle breaks, are near the bottom in run metres, penalties conceded and errors made, and they give away a lot of set restarts. They can camp in the opposition red zone and not once run a decent attacking play, sometimes their halfback might not even touch the ball. Of course, that halfback is Kyle Flanagan so can you blame them?
The usual dangers for the Eels are here, of course. Take any opposition too lightly, even the Bulldogs, and you will get done. The forwards still need to do the hard work, the attack needs to be straight and direct, not sideways. The speed and skill of Addo-Carr needs to be respected, as does the kicking game of Matt Burton. Yet even a mediocre Eels effort should be enough this weekend. Anything more than that and we start looking at boosting the points differential.
It really is a matter of how many in this one. Some people say overconfidence like this is bad karma, that I’m asking for disappointment, but premiership contenders should be confident going in against not just the worst team in the competition this year, but the worst team of the last three years. How many members of this Bulldogs team would make the Eels best 17? Two? Three? They’re bad, and Parramatta should win comfortably.
The best result here will be the game is over by halftime and we get minutes into the legs of Makatoa, Nathan Brown and Kaufusi, while Junior Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard get an extended rest. Maika Sivo gets a warm-up run to test out his knee and gain some confidence, Waqa Blake re-acquaints himself with the centre position and we get a crucial points differential boost in what is becoming a tight race for the four.
The Roosters and Rabbitohs over the next fortnight will present a much sterner test, but for now let’s enjoy an extended bye week against the Bulldogs. They’re bad, we’re not, and I’m confident that even if we see mega-effortball from them it will still be a comfortable Eels win, just perhaps a little closer early on than we’d like. Anything less than 20+ will be a disappointment.
Go you Eels!
Prediction: Parramatta 46 d Canterbury-Bankstown 6
Man of the Match: Clint Gutherson