The Clash Between The Canterbury Bulldogs And The Manly Sea Eagles

I love a good grudge match and tonight’s Bulldogs vs Sea Eagles match is about as good of a grudge match as you will find.

It all stems back to the Sea Eagles implosion after winning the Grand Final. Their success on the field had been masking a lot of issues off the field and the Grand Final simply signaled the end of the season for the club and allowed a lot of dominoes to finally fall.

The day after the Grand Final the big news was that Will Hopoate had signed with the Parramatta Eels, in two years time, after he has finished his Mormon mission. It was sudden, it was unexpected and it was a shock that the club would lose a young star like that so easily.

The biggest issue was to come, as Des Hasler, who felt like the club had not given him the commitment he deserved as a two time premiership winning coach, looked to secure his future at the Bulldogs, who did nothing wrong at all by signing him for the 2013 season.

By this stage the implosion that was happening off the field at the Sea Eagles went to another level. They basically sacked Hasler, which allowed him to take up the Bulldogs coaching role in 2012, and they spent the next few months making ridiculous accusations towards him.

One of the Sea Eagles biggest issues was the fact that some players had clauses in their contracts stating that of the coach left, they effectively become free agents. The club blamed Hasler for this, but this is a clause certain players want put in their contracts and at the end of the day, Hasler didn’t sign off on the contracts, the CEO does that job.

In the last week there has been a lot of talk about the future of Kieran Foran. It reached a beautiful peak on Thursday night on The Footy Show when Erin Molan’s “mail” was that Foran had just signed with the Bulldogs. Paul Vautin immediately said he heard the opposite, and that Foran has re-signed with the Sea Eagles. It was pretty embarrassing but only because it played out on television. The fact is I’ve seen all many other journo’s making declarations on Forans decisions for weeks now and here, on Friday afternoon, nothing has yet been confirmed.

Oh for the days of journalists rather than tea leaf readers….

So here we are, and these clubs match up for the first time sign all of this went down over the last 10 months or so. Who is going to win?

Both teams play a very similar style. When Hasler came to the Bulldogs the effect was immediate and they basically looked to clone the style of play the Sea Eagles have used for the last few years.

I tend to think that at times, this works against them. The Bulldogs haven’t got the same ball players the Sea Eagles have, but at the same time I think they have more ability to blow a game open with the likes of Frank Pritchard and Greg Eastwood who can come up with something special rather than having them grinding out tackles and safe hit ups.

The big difference between these two teams right now is in the halves. Dale Cherry-Evans has been brilliant this season and the Bulldogs just don’t get the same sort of control from their halves.

I don’t think either side is near their best form at the moment but I would expect both see this as a game that could kick on the rest of their season.

One thing you need to remember is that, the Sea Eagles players probably feel like they have something to prove against their own coach. The Bulldogs player, hey, they are just caught in the cross fire! They haven’t invested months thinking of revenge heading into this game.

I worry about the Bulldogs attack at times. They can be a nightmare of a side to face but they can also go through large periods of the game where they take no chances what so ever and look terrible in attack. I think back to their loss against South Sydney, they were terrible in that game.

The Sea Eagles don’t have them sort of problems because of Cherry-Evans ability to guide his team around the park, and as these two teams go to war up front, that may well be the difference.

My guts are telling me to go with the Bulldogs, probably because I don’t like Manly and the way they constantly carry on like arseholes, but my head is saying that you can’t go past the Sea Eagles.

They simply have more to play for.

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