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When rivals re-unite - Australian Rugby league News
globalrugbyleague - Fri, 14 Sep 2007 13:30:00 GMT
For both Canterbury and Parramatta finals football has been far from a successful experience in recent years.

These two NRL heavyweights have ‘choked’ in preliminary finals in the past two seasons yet one of them will return to that familiar stomping ground after Saturday night.

The GRL Traitor does not envy the winner as they will then have to tie down the hatchets for a dangerous storm which is looming on the horizon.

If you’re a fan of either of these teams, be warned. There are five authentic reasons why these teams can lose on Saturday night and begin their off-season training come Monday morning.


1. Soft up top

It happened in round 10 as it did in the 1998 preliminary final. The Eels got out to a great start and then let the Bulldogs back in the game. Dr Dill has diagnosed this condition as “Softus mentalis”. In other words, the Eels get scared of the Bulldogs mentally towards the back end of games and then start defensively dancing to the beat of shake, rattle and roll.

2. Stadium Australia Curse

Parramatta have played the Bulldogs at Stadium Australia 6 times and only won their first game there in round 21, 2007. Over the years they’ve suffered a good ol’ fashioned spanking by the Belmore brigade. There are so many memories for Bulldogs fans to look back on. One of the funniest losses was in round 1, 2004. After parading around some of the big men they recruited during the off-season, Parramatta’s chunk hunks proved that extra-size doesn’t necessarily turn into extra success. Subsequently the Eels went down 48-14 and their fans prayed to Parramatta Jesus that they would never have to meet the Dogs at the beginning of a season ever again.

3. The Riddell dance

Sources close to the GRL Traitor have revealed that the boys from Canterbury-Bankstown are still fuming about Mark Riddell’s impromptu dance during their 56-4 routing at Parramatta Stadium back in 2005. Riddell busted through the defence of Willie Mason and Mark O’Meley to score the final try of the night. The former Bulldogs junior then performed a jig and spin dance, a move he borrowed from Cuba Gooding jnr’s character in the movie Jerry Maguire. That dance left many in Belmore seething and should the Bulldogs win big on Saturday, we could see a rival post-try waltz to return the favour. Giving the Bulldogs motivation to beat you is never a wise move and the Eels could pay for this.

4. 80 minutes too long

In both games played between the two rivals this season, the Eels have either scored early or responded quickly when the Bulldogs penetrated their defence successfully. They led at half-time in both clashes played this year yet only won one of those (round 21). Certainly the Eels form heading into this clash is better then the Bulldogs but what finals football comes down to is rising to the occasion and forgetting about the regular season. Competition points aren’t on the line, a possible ride to the Grand Final is and that boils over into 80 minutes of pressure. The Eels seem to melt quicker under pressure and can’t put away the Dogs until the final siren. That will probably work against them. Perhaps the NRL should consider allowing the Eels to play the Dogs in 40 minute games during finals. That’s only fair don’t you think?

5. Not meant to succeed

Sadly some teams have a pre-disposition for failure and when you haven’t won a title in 20 years while appearing in only one Grand Final, the truth is the football gods are not on your side. Many experts believe it’s only a matter of time before the blue and gold trip up much like a moron does when he or she steps on a banana. You can see the banana skin a mile away but nothing is done about it before it’s too late. The Eels could have avoided this clash by losing last week. Now they must pay the price for their success. If I was going to write a book about the Eels, I would probably call it, “Victory isn’t for us.”


1. Burned sides lift

Parramatta have never forgotten nor forgiven the Bulldogs for denying them a Grand Final appearance in the infamous 1998 preliminary final. Up 18-2 with 11 minutes to go, Eels coach Brian Smith made his way down to the field to prepare for the post-match celebrations. But then the Dogs found some spark and reduced the score to 18-12 and somehow managed to eventually win 32-20. News this week that some Bulldogs players watched the game will not sit down well and should give Parramatta the intensity to raise the volume in this game. Two Eels players from that 1998 preliminary final are still involved in this year’s series. They are Nathan Cayless and Nathan Hindmarsh.

2. Inevitable errors

How many times this season have Bulldogs fans seen a forward knock the ball on over the line? If you answered too many, go and fetch yourself a rocky road ice cream from the local overpriced convenient store. Canterbury sometimes take simple skills for granted when they look like their carving up an opposition and that is where they will come undone against Parramatta. Someone will drop the ball from a clearing kick or lose the white pill after making a fantastic tackle break all because of attitude. And these mistakes will cost plenty against the Eels who have one of the youngest, quickest and most confident back lines seen in many years.

3. Can’t score back to back

The Bulldogs have really been out of character against the Eels this season. Their solid win-loss record over their rivals since 2001 (6 wins, 2 losses, 1 draw) has been a result of their ability to score lots of points early in their games. But in both fixtures played in 07, Canterbury have been unable to score back to back tries, allowing the contests to go right down to the wire. If they continue this pattern on Saturday night, the Eels might just find some extra-time redemption of their own.

4. Injuries:

The year was 2001. Parramatta ran away with the minor premiership while the Bulldogs comfortably finished in 2nd spot. But then an incy wincy semi-final showdown between the Dogs and Cronulla saw the Dogs lose two five-eighths (Brent Sherwin and Braith Anasta) not to mention Glen Hughes while Darren Smith had to go into the halves. What promised to be a competitive affair turned out to be a blowout game with the Sharks winning 52-10. Canterbury haven’t been rocked by injuries to a major player for a few weeks and one suspects they might be overdue for some bad luck.

5. They are favourites:

All the money is on Canterbury to win even though the Eels finished higher then them in 2007. Favourites in the McIntyre system are not to be trusted. One of them always has a bad day on a really bad day.

Saturday, 15th September 2007
Parramatta v Bulldogs at Telstra Stadium, 7:45pm
Referee: Shayne Hayne
GRL Tip: Eels

EELS: Jarryd Hayne, Krisnan Inu, Joel Reddy, Timana Tahu, Eric Grothe, Brett Finch, Tim Smith, Nathan Cayless (c), Mark Riddell, Fuifui Moimoi, Nathan Hindmarsh, Ian Hindmarsh, Feleti Mateo
Interchange: PJ Marsh, Josh Cordoba, Chad Robinson, Daniel Wagon

BULLDOGS: Luke Patten, Hazem El Masri, Daryl Millard, Willie Tonga, Matt Utai, Ben Roberts, Brent Sherwin, Mark O'Meley, Corey Hughes, Willie Mason, Sonny Bill Williams, Andrew Ryan, Reni Maitua
Interchange: Adam Perry, Nick Kouparitsas, Chris Armit, Jarrad Hickey
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