The Bulldogs are going to be out to avoid a 0-3 start to the season as they take on the Panthers at ANZ Stadium.
TEAM FORM GUIDE
In their opening round match against the Storm, the Bulldogs played what appeared to be a much better brand of attacking footy than what they had served up in 2017. However last week against the Roosters, they went back to looking completely clueless, unable to post a try when the Roosters were reduced to 12 men from a sin-binning. They went down 30-12 and their defence had leaked 30+ points in the first two rounds.
Michael Lichaa and Moses Mbye continue to look dangerous but the team needs to lift their defensive efforts. If they don’t, they risk a massive points difference to overcome and a winless record after 3 rounds.
The Panthers have established themselves early in the season as the comeback kings. Down by 14 points to nil once again going into the half-time break, the Panthers rallied in the second half to keep their opponents scoreless for the second consecutive week.
Whilst the Panthers ability to mount comebacks is certainly impressive, it’s safe to assume that coach Griffin would be a little concerned with the Panthers slow starts to games. Eventually they’ll run into a team that can punish them for it. That team might not be the Bulldogs but a better start to the match would have to be on the Panthers agenda for the week.
With a poor start to the season that has seen the Dogs leak 66 points in 2 games, 5/8 Matt Frawley has paid the price by being dropped from the side. Youngster Jeremy Marshall-King shifts from the bench in which he has made limited appearances, straight into a starting role at No.6.
Nu Brown comes onto the bench for his debut in Bulldogs colours as back-up dummy half while Aiden Tolman starts at Lock with Danny Fualalo moving to the bench. With Tolman offering little off the bench, it’s likely a tactical move to take advantage of Tolman’s strengths as a big minute, workhorse forward.
With unfortunate injuries befalling Sam McKendry and Tim Browne, the Panthers front-row depth is already being tested. Moses Leota joins the interchange in the Panthers only change.
Campbell-Gillard’s ability to play upwards of 60 minutes means they shouldn’t require big minutes from any of their bench forwards so their game-plan is likely to be unaffected.
The battle between the two dummy halves.
As Lichaa went off the field at the 60th minute against the Roosters, he had ran for more metres than any of his forwards. It was both an impressive and horrendous stat that demonstrated the effectiveness of his running game and how lacklustre his forwards were. If they step up this week and get the momentum in their favour early then they give Lichaa more opportunities to work with.
Peter Wallace got the Panthers back in the game against the Rabbitohs with a short ball straight for Merrin to crash over. On the Sunday Footy Show, an opinion was raised during review of the game that the Panthers looked more dangerous when Wallace took the ball forward and reacted to the defence rather than just passing left and right. With the kicking game he has, Wallace can present another headache for the opposition in attack.
The Bulldogs have lost their last 3 encounters with the Panthers.
Bulldogs: 1 Moses Mbye, 2 Brett Morris, 3 Josh Morris, 4 Will Hopoate, 5 Marcelo Montoya, 6 Jeremy Marshall-King, 7 Kieran Foran, 8 Aaron Woods, 9 Michael Lichaa, 10 David Klemmer, 11 Josh Jackson (c), 12 Raymond Faitala-Mariner, 13 Aiden Tolman
Interchange: 14 Adam Elliott, 15 Asipeli Fine, 16 Danny Fualalo, 17 Fa’amanu Brown
Reserves: 19 Francis Tualau, 20 Kerrod Holland, 21 Renouf Toomaga, 23 John Olive
Panthers: 1 Dylan Edwards, 2 Josh Mansour, 3 Waqa Blake, 4 Dean Whare, 5 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 James Tamou, 9 Peter Wallace (c), 10 Reagan Campbell-Gillard, 11 Viliame Kikau, 12 Isaah Yeo, 13 Trent Merrin
Interchange: 14 Tyrone Peachey, 15 Corey Harawira-Naera, 16 Moses Leota, 17 James Fisher-Harris
Reserves: 18 Sione Katoa, 19 Nick Lui-Toso, 20 Jarome Luai, 21 Christian Crichton
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Friday 23rd March
Venue: ANZ Stadium
WHO WILL WIN?