It’s been an unfortunate week for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. Just as the team appeared to be building some momentum heading in to the closing rounds of the regular-season and hopefully, the playoffs, bad news just couldn’t escape them.
Ben Barba’s injury situation coming out of the lopsided victory over the rival Parramatta Eels was highlighted as one to monitor in a previous post. It didn’t seem too serious at the time it took place, however it was enough to force him to the locker room and keep him from the rest of the game. Now we know why. Scans have revealed Barba sustained a grade-one high ankle sprain, and will be out for up to 5 weeks. The news could prove to be quite the dent in the pursuit of form the team would like heading in to the business end of the season, as the attack just is not the same without the diminutive playmaker. Set pieces lack polish and the side lacks the spark only a player like Barba provides with the ball in his hands. To handle his absence, the team had a few options, including calling up lower-grader Drury Low to play Fullback and keep the rest of the back-line intact. However Head Coach Des Hasler has opted to repeat the combination that was forged as the immediate fix following Barba’s exit in the round 20 victory, naming Sam Perrett at Fullback, pushing Krisnan Inu to the wing and recalling talented youngster Tim Lafai to fill the vacant Centre position. This alignment seemed to work for the team for the remained of the game against the Eels. Here’s hoping that success can be sustained, as it would cushion the obvious blow dealt to any team that loses an impact player such as Barba.
Dene Halatau has opted to return to the Wests Tigers at the end of this season, making this his last in the Blue and White. Halatau has been a vastly underrated member of this Bulldogs outfit, particularly in the Grand Final run of the 2012 season. He always brought high-energy and enthusiasm to all aspects of his game and could always be called upon to make a key tackle or make an impact with the ball in his hands to get the forward pack on the front foot.
He was a consistent performer for the team and from all reports, he was not only a true professional off the field, but also a terrific teammate. Safe to say, losing such not only a solid contributor, but a classy individual is sad news for the club. He will be missed.
Somehow in this day and age of professional sport, a venue the stature of ANZ Stadium managed to double book the night of Friday the 30th of August. On this night, the Bulldogs were to take on the Panthers, and the AFL were supposed to hold their Grand Final rematch between Sydney and Hawthorn. How such a conflict happens in the first place is a mystery, however perhaps more mysteriously, the Bulldogs lost out in the conflict despite ANZ Stadium being the teams home field, and are still trying to resolve the issue by moving the game to a different date. Surely the tie in such situations should go to the team that actually calls the stadium home, the Bulldogs. Admittedly though, the Swans/Hawks AFL game is likely to attract a larger crowd than the Bulldogs/Panthers game would, so I can understand that line of thinking leading to the AFL being favoured. Also, consider this: the main alternative for the AFL would be to move the team to the Swans home ground: the SCG, which to me seemed the most logical solution. However, ANZ Stadium’s higher capacity (83, 500) compared to the SCG’s (46, 000) surely played a role in the decision. Not to say that the Swans game will attract 83, 500 fans, however there must be a feeling somewhere in certain sectors that 46, 000 at the SCG could potentially not be enough, and with the NRL game likely to attract something around 15, 000 – 20, 000 fans, that potential need for capacity may have been a key factor in the decision to award the stadium to the AFL, leaving the NRL to do its best to reschedule either at a different venue, or on another date. The leading candidate at this point in time seems to be a different day, either a Thursday night, a time slot that has been popular in the past, or a Sunday game. However, a Sunday solution could potentially make things even more difficult for the Bulldogs. Such a decision would give them a short week heading in to the final round of the season, where they are to play the Brisbane Broncos the following Thursday night, ironically. This would leave them with just 4 days, including game day, to recover from the Panthers game, and then prepare for the Broncos. A tough ask at the end of the season.