The Roosters have stopped the Bulldogs’ winning streak at seven games, handing the team their first loss in 8 weeks. Despite both teams missing their Origin stars, the game lacked no intensity in what was another physical chapter of the traditional rivalry. Here are the ups and downs:
- Inu/Maitua return: Two familiar faces from different Bulldogs eras returned to NRL action on Friday night. Krisnan Inu returned to the team in light of Josh Morris’ Origin absence and the subsequent backline reshuffle Des Hasler employed to cope with his loss. Inu has been a Bulldogs fixture since his arrival in 2012. However, some injury woes coupled with the form of younger Centre Tim Lafai have seen Inu relegatd to reserve grade so far this season.
Reni Maitua, a member of the Bulldogs’ 2004 Premiership winning team, last played for the club in 2008 before signing with Cronulla on 2009, where he was banned from the NRL for 2 years when he tested positive to a banned substance. He returned to the NRL in 2011, signing with Parramatta, where he stayed until he was signed by the Bulldogs to return to Belmore for the 2014 season. Maitua has come a long way since his ‘bad boy’ days and seems to have found solace in the homecoming of sorts his return the Bulldogs has been.
- Tee tradition continued: For those who don’t already know, Bulldogs (and now NSW) Halfback Trent Hodkinson has been doing a lot for the community off the field. He spends a lot of his time with sick children in hospital, and each week he inscribes the name of one of the kids he meets on his kicking tee, dedicating his games to them. He then visits them again in the days post-game to present them with the tee labelled in their honour.
As Hodkinson was picked for the NSW State of Origin team, I wondered if the tradition would continue in his absence. It did, and both the club and Krisnan Inu, who took over kicking duties in Hodkinson’s absence, are to be commended for ensuring the gesture was maintained. Obviously, Trent Hodkinson himself also deserves high praise, not just for the performances he has graced us with on the football field, but for his evident efforts off of it and this particular idea that the club has wholeheartedly embraced.
Well done, Canterbury-Bankstown, Krisnan Inu and Trent Hodkinson. The goodwill that teams exude more often than not goes unnoticed. Not here. These things deserve far more attention than they currently receive. On that note, Reni Maitua in particular deserves praise and attention for the work he is doing off the field for mental health and suicide prevention. Maitua, along with many other NRL players, athletes and high profile personalities in general, has teamed up with an organisation called Plebs, Pros & Personalities for suicide prevention. For more information, head to their website here. Well done to you to, Reni.
- Mbye’s first taste of #7: With Trent Hodkinson the long-term answer for the Bulldogs at Halfback, the depth at the position will likely see very little time in the NRL, barring circumstances such as injury or suspension. Moses Mbye made his NRL debut earlier this year against the Knights out of position, and did so admirably (highlighted here, point #1). However, with Hodkinson on Origin duty, Mbye got his first shot at playing in his natural position of Halfback. His debut at Halfback was a mixed bag, but a mostly positive one. In particular, he appears to be a talented kicker of the football. His kicking game is by no means refined, but he looks like a natural striker of the ball. He also threw a beautiful pass to Centre Tim Lafai in an attacking sequence that allowed Mitch Brown to score the first of his two Tries.
- Mitch Brown’s a finisher: And a good one at that. He may not be the flashiest winger in the NRL, but he has been a sound, solid addition to the Bulldogs since his arrival from the Tigers last season. He’s rarely out of position, he makes good decisions defensively, and he has proved adept at finishing off attacking movements with a Try. He scored 2 in this game, the first a good finish from a swift backline movement, and the second from an Mbye kick that took a favourable bounce to elude Roosters defenders who appeared in position to cover the kick. Brown remained privy to the bounce of the ball and was in position to ground the ball for a Try just inside the dead-ball line. Brown shares the team-lead in Tries with 5 (Centre Tim Lafai also has 5).
- Kasiano’s form: Sam Kasiano has been in fine form since his return to the NRL. He’s verging on the kind of form that saw him win Prop of the year in 2012, the year that saw the team make the Grand Final for the first time since 2004. He’s running as hard as he ever has, he appears to be more in control of his offloads and is really leaving his imprint on games. On Friday night he was inches from scoring on at least 3 occasions. He is constantly requiring 3, 4, and even 5 defenders to bring him down and he ignites the team’s intensity every time he runs with the ball. He is clearly reveling in his new role coming off the bench as opposed to starting, as his performances have been very impressive so far this season.
- Streak over: The Bulldogs were beaten for the first time in 8 weeks, courtesy of a depleted but dominant Roosters side. This game was a physical one, spearheaded by the feud between Bulldogs prop David Klemmer and his Roosters counterpart Jared Warea-Hargreaves. The two almost came to blows as some extra treatment in the ruck lead to a near-scuffle. From that moment on, Klemmer was a marked man, and to his credit he didn’t back down. However, with the Bulldogs halves pairing replacing the Roosters’ in the NSW Origin side, the Bulldogs were noticeably flat in attack whilst the Roosters, despite missing Origin stars of their own, had their offensive backbone of Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney intact in wake of them missing out on Origin this year. To their credit, they both responded well to the situation by turning in good performances, particularly Pearce, who’s often criticised kicking game was a highlight.
- Uninspired offense: To say the Bulldogs were by and large flat in attack was an understatement. The team often had lulls in attacking output with their regular halves starters in Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson. As was to be expected, the halves combination of Mbye and Centre Chase Stanley just wasn’t up to par, especially when compared to the former NSW halves pairing of Mitchell Pearce and James Maloney the Roosters have at their disposal. That’s not to say they didn’t have their chances, they most certainly did. But as is the point here, they failed to capitalise on a surplus of red-zone posession, which will be highlighted by this week’s key statistic. Plays were slow to develop, if they developed at all. The team just appeared disorganised. Of course, this was not entirely unexpected given the wealth of talent at key positions missing due to their Origin selection. Nonetheless, it would have been nice to see their respective replacements seize the numerous opportunities they had in the game to make it more of a contest than it ended up.
- Lack of concussion clarity: The NRL’s efforts to address the issue of concussion on contact sports is inherently flawed, and was yet again exposed as such by the Bulldogs. Twice there were situations where players received contact to the head, yet the concussion protocol did not get carried out. Both remained on the field at the discretion of trainers. The Bulldogs are no stranger to the concussion protocol and have already been fined by the NRL this season for breaching it. It appears they may yet again have a case to answer. However, as I pointed out last time this issue came up (link here), the protocol itself is part of the problem. The onus of player welfare in the heat of the moment should be removed from both teams and players – the medical diagnosis and review has to come from an independent professional, or there will always remain a conflict of interest that will forever have the potential to be detrimental to the most important part of the entire conversation here – player welfare.
The NRL may seem to have gotten the message somewhat, however, as they have appointed renowned Sydney specialist Ken Crichton as what is being termed as a ‘Tournament Medical Officer’ where he will serve in a role similar to the one I am alluding to (link here). This will serve as a trial to see if it can be implemented across the NRL, and it is exactly the kind of thing the protocol should have been from the beginning. This week there will be an in depth look in to the issue of concussion on this blog, so for a deeper look in to the issue, stay tuned to this page (and my Twitter feed if you are so inclined – handle: @ljenson17).
If the Bulldogs have yet again breached the rules with regard to concussion, they must suffer the consequences. However, as I stated the first time I addressed this topic in the link I provided in this point, the protocol itself is not where it needs to be, despite good intentions, and that is the fault of the NRL itself.
- Refereeing: Let me preface this point by saying in no way is it an attempt to lay blame for the loss on the officials – the Roosters were the more dominant side and deserved the win without doubt. However, there were some very questionable refereeing decisions in this game, in particular the Mbye no-Try and the Minichiello Try. The Mbye one I can understand, and just merely disagree with. The evidence to me is that he got the ball down with sufficient force despite some movement. Tries have been awarded with far less control than Mbye exhibited.
The Minichiello one I couldn’t fathom Not only was he offside from Maloney’s kick, but he was also offisde from the accidental contact between the ball and SBW’s foot that preceded said kick. Then, Josh Jackson put in a monumental effort at that point in the game to put everything he had in to a sprint for the ball (further evidence for him being the definition of an effort player, as I have anointed him previously), and ground the ball before Minichiello could, which he did quite clearly to me.
I’m assuming the replay officials deemed the contact was simultaneous, whereby it is then a Try. I disagree, but I get it. But at the point, it should have been moot. Minichiello was offside twice, much less that I could see clearly with the power of replay on Foxtel IQ that Jackson grounded the ball before Minichiello. Yet, with professionals viewing better footage than I was producing in my living room in the day and age of technology existing to prevent such abysmal decisions being made, such a poor decision still came to fruition. Scratching my head on that one. The NRL needs to conduct a thorough review in to certain rules and systems employed by the referees. There have just been too many moments like that one already this season, and we haven’t even played a game of Origin yet.
- Klemmer’s foot: David Klemmer has been put on report for lifting his foot dangerously high just before he was about to contact a defender, meaning the studs of his boot were exposed in a dangerous position with a lot of force behind it. It’s the kind of thing the league frowns upon, and Klemmer will be lucky to escape the charge without any sort of suspension. His availability will be on to monitor going forward.
Play of the game: Mitch Brown’s aforementioned finish from an Mbye grubber kick (a kick along the ground). Brown did very well to stay alive and aware in a situation that appeared covered by the defending team, much less to successfully ground the ball just inside the field of play.
Key statistic: Tackles in the opposition redzone (between the Tryline and 20m line) in the first half alone: Bulldogs 31 – Roosters 6. That means that the Bulldogs had at least 5 sets of six on the Roosters line, and came away with only the 1 Try. There was a period as the half came to a close where the Bulldogs had 3 or 4 consecutive sets of six in the redzone, and managed only a penalty goal with time running out. In particular, one set consisted of literally four one-out (where the ball is passed just the once from dummy-half out to a player who then is ultimately tackled without passing the ball) runs, and then a kick. Missing the Origin halves of Hodkinson and Reynolds definitely showed in situations like this, and is the kind of thing young players like Mbye need to work on. At NRL level, sets like that are simply unacceptable. That much possession has to eventually materialise in to points, and it didn’t despite ample opportunity.