Bulldogs co-captain Mick Ennis plays his 200th first grade game against the Roosters on Friday night. Copyright: NRL Photos/Colin Whelan. Credit: NRL Photos/Colin Whelan. Copyright: NRL Photos/Colin Whelan.
Six days after dismantling 2012 NRL premiers Melbourne, Bulldogs players say they'll have to reach another level to bring down 2013 champions the Roosters.
It was Des Hasler's Bulldogs of old in Perth last week, putting a Cameron Smith-less Storm side to the sword 40-12 on their way to the second win of their past three matches.
And it could've been a perfect three from three had it not been for Matt Moylan's goalkicking heroics in Penrith two weeks ago.
But co-captain Mick Ennis said that while he was pleased with the way the side skipped away against Melbourne, the 200-game celebrant challenged his teammates to continue their momentum against the premiership favourites.
"That was the most pleasing thing, the way we responded to how well Melbourne got out of the blocks," he said on Wednesday.
"But we were patient and we worked our way back into the game. I thought our halves really took control, steered the side around well, [and] obviously some good finishes out wide as well.
"It was a pleasing performance, but we really need to take that momentum into Friday night, obviously against a very good Roosters side right across the park. It'll certainly be a massive challenge for us."
While the reigning premiers will also have a key player on the sidelines in the suspended Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, Ennis said the Roosters gained plenty with the return of drawcard Sonny Bill Williams and the promotion of rising prop Dylan Napa.
"[Williams] certainly adds a lot, he's a very classy player. He's a guy that brings a lot of confidence to the team, [and] the guys around him will be obviously feeling good about having him back in the team. He's missed three weeks, so he'll be looking to put in a good performance as well. He's certainly a key for them, that's for sure," Ennis said.
"I think the Roosters are in a good period in terms of depth, to be able to bring a guy in like Dylan Napa who's obviously burst onto the scene and played some good football with his opportunities in such a strong forward pack. They certainly will miss Jared, but they'll certainly gain a bit too by getting that young enthusiasm that Napa brings to the side."
One of the major individual battles between the rivals is the match-up between in-form halfbacks Trent Hodkinson and Mitchell Pearce.
Just one week after outplaying Queensland playmaker Cooper Cronk, Hodkinson said it would be another big test against the incumbent Blues pointman.
"[They're the] Origin halves, one of the best pairings in the game. Coming off winning the comp last year, they were a big part of their success. So it's a big test for me and Josh [Reynolds], and hopefully we can get the two points," he said.
"Right across the board, they've got big mobile forwards that get a roll on for the side and off the back of that, their halves feed the outside backs some good footy. You can't pinpoint one area, they're just a quality side and it's going to be a tough match."
Bulldogs players refused to comment on the failed contract negotiations between the club and Andrew Fifita, but Ennis admitted talks had begun on sorting his own future.
"It's just in its early stages at the moment. Just happy to be playing the footy at the moment. Hopefully work something out in the near future," Ennis said.