The Doggies need to get their season back on track or risk slipping down the ladder.Picture: Mark Evans/heraldsun.com.au
Canterbury Bulldogs v Parramatta Eels
Sunday June 15 – 3:05 PM (AEST)
Three weeks ago, they were the pinnacle of the NRL. But after two straight losses, the Canterbury Bulldogs have to regroup and sort out what went wrong. The first loss was without their Origin stars, but it's hard to find an excuse for the 32-10 thumping they copped last start from the Sea Eagles. The Parramatta Eels are in a similar situation. Flying high before the Origin period, they produced one of their worst performances against the Panthers two weeks ago without Jarryd Hayne. The classy fullback proved just what he means to the Eels in the 18-16 victory over the Cowboys last Friday.
Dogs coach Des Hasler is no stranger to what the Origin period can do to a team. Having coached Manly for so many years, he knows what it takes to get through the representative part of the season relatively unscathed. But he didn’t anticipate losing so many key players to a Blues jumper. Without first choice halves Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds, he has opted to go with a mixture of youth and experience. Young gun Damien Cook will start at halfback, with Reni Maitua the five-eighth. Injuries continue to plague the Doggies, with Chase Stanley (knee) and Aiden Tolman (hamstring) being replaced by Josh Jackson and Sam Kasiano. Dale Finucane and Greg Eastwood start in the back row, with Pat O’Hanlon, Corey Thompson and Lloyd Perrett making up the extended bench.
It’s time for the Eels to prove they can win without Hayne. They need to show that if something happens to their superstar, they can still produce class performances. Chris Sandow is getting better every week, but he needs everyone else to step up. The signing of journeyman Isaac De Gois is a smart one. Covering for regular hooker Nathan Peats, who has been sidelined for the season with a knee injury, De Gois is an ideal replacement. Ken Sio starts at fullback for Hayne, with Ryan Morgan pushing into the centres for Will Hopoate (Origin). Willie Tonga has been named despite being on standby for the Maroons.
This is a Sunday afternoon game you can’t miss. While both teams are without their star power, they still have the personnel to make this the pick of the round.