The Bulldogs will run out on to ANZ Stadium hoping to find the form that will produce win number one for the season. To do so, they have listed the exact same team that played in the Week 1 loss to the Broncos (Team list/analysis here). Here’s what to watch for in the closing NRL game of Week 2 when the Bulldogs take on the Cronulla Sharks at home on Monday Night Football.
- Attacking potency: The offensive output by the team in Week 1 left much to be desired. In 27 sets of possession with the ball (16/27 completed), the team only managed 1 Linebreak. That’s simply not good enough. Some injures at key positions such as Centre (Inu and Lafai still out) invariably contribute to a teams ability to penetrate a Defense, but those tasked with their replacement, and the rest of the team as a whole were simply stagnant in attack, lacking creativity and spark.
- Direction & Execution: However, the most critical factor to that lack of offensive prowess is the performance of the Halves. Both Halfback Trent Hodkinson and Five-Eighth Josh Reynolds need to take control in attack, make sound decisions with the ball and dictate the play. Last week saw slow, sloppy execution of the teams standard attacking plays. Considering many of these plays are now commonplace across the NRL, they need to be executed accurately and at speed to be effective. Set moves were uninspired and sluggish, and the onus of setting the standard required falls squarely upon the shoulders of a team’s playmakers: the Halves. Strike players such as Josh Morris not only didn’t touch the ball frequently enough, the opportunities they had were in poor position and on the back of poor ball movement. Going through the motions doesn’t get it done at NRL level, something I’m sure Head Coach Des Hasler has made salient during the week at training.
- No Fifita preview: As has been the big signing news of the week, the Bulldogs have signed Australia/NSW/Cronulla Prop, Andrew Fifita, commencing the 2015 season. Coincidentally, he would have been suiting up against his new team the very next game after putting pen to paper. But his shoulder-charge suspension will preclude that from happening, denying Bulldogs fans a preview of their future acquisition.
- Experience: Players like Chase Stanley, Pat O’Hanlon and Corey Thompson got their first taste of Football in a Bulldogs jersey last week (and in Thompson’s case, his first taste of the NRL). They all put in respectable performances in Week 1. Hopefully with the nerves of a debut out of the way, they can find their feet within their respective roles in the team and improve upon their respective Week 1 performances.
- Player to watch: Tony Williams. The polarising figure that has been Williams in a Bulldogs jersey put in another inconsistent performance in Week 1 that has become frustratingly synonymous with the huge Second-Rower. He made some errors, and looks lost at times in defense. However, he also showed what he is capable of in scoring a physical Try in the red zone. This season presents an opportunity for Williams to return to the form that once made him a coveted signing. Improving upon his Week 1 performance would be a big step in that direction.