Eels clash "do or die" for Bulldogs
Having lost their past four games and sunk to eighth on the competition ladder, the Canterbury Bulldogs are facing a precarious future if they fail to pick themselves up soon.
With the Bulldogs set to face the Jarryd Hayne-led Eels, who are on a roll after winning their past three games, only one team will finish the weekend in the top eight.
With that in mind, Bulldogs prop Aiden Tolman has labelled this week's game a "do or die" clash with a win the only acceptable outcome for his club on Friday night.
"We need to get the win," Tolman said. "They have a big side with plenty of enthusiasm and any side with Jarryd Hayne in it is going to come out ready to play.
"Hayne is a type of player that can pull something from nothing. He is a tremendous player but in saying that there are 12 other players on the field so we need to make sure we're doing a job on them too."
The Bulldogs' season has been compounded by consecutive losses to the Tigers, Cowboys, Panthers and Broncos over the past month in a streak that has seen them slide down from the top three teams in the competition to an endangered species on the edge of not making it through to September.
While he only made his return from a hamstring complaint last weekend after a four week layoff, Tolman believes it is difficult to put the Bulldogs' form down to any one thing with the Smithtown Tigers junior listing a number of reasons as to why the club has been struggling.
"For me, it is about our completions and our possession of the ball. We don't respect it enough. We seem to be dropping the ball especially when we're coming out of trouble, and teams hurt you when they have enough ball and score points on you," Tolman said.
"From now on it is about being focused in the game and doing everything we can to do to wear teams out because that's what they're doing to us at the moment."
Unlike his teammate, Bulldogs and Australian Test centre Josh Morris was a lot blunter in his assessment of how his team is tracking.
While Morris too made his return to the Bulldogs' team in Round 22, having been sidelined since Round 10 after suffering knee injuries in both Game One and Game Three of the State of Origin series, the eight-year NRL veteran didn't hold back in his evaluation of the Belmore-based club's current form.
"Des can give us all the game plans in the world but the simple fact is that we're not holding onto the ball and we're not completing our sets like we should be, and when we're going into games with 40 per cent possession there is no way we're going to win games," Morris said.
Morris said every remaining game in the year would be vital if the Bulldogs were to prevent a repeat of last year's exit in the first week of the finals.
"We put ourselves in such a good position, a month ago we were sitting right up there but now we are on the edge of the eight so we need to get back to winning and make sure we are not going into the finals to make up the numbers," Morris said.
"We want to win four in a row and head into the finals with that momentum. We don't want to be eliminated in the first week like we were last season either."
Still, the star centre insists the Dogs' season isn't on life support. Not quite yet anyway.
"I wouldn't say [the losses] are a serious concern," Morris said. "If we lose another one or two it definitely becomes a concern but we just need to start winning again."