Bulldogs fly to Melbourne under the radar
Canterbury-Bankstown skipper Michael Ennis believes his side will revel in their role as underdogs when they take on Melbourne in the second elimination final on Sunday.
The Bulldogs were well above the NRL radar when they led the competition table for the entire month of May, and were sitting comfortably in third spot after out-defending the Storm in the southern capital back in Round 19.
But Des Hasler's side went into a disturbing freefall after that, losing six of their final seven games and were eventually lucky to keep their invite to the NRL finals this weekend, where they'll start at long odds to upset the perennial heavyweights.
"It's a position that we probably like, too," Ennis told NRL.com on Monday.
"We've just got to knuckle down this week, get as much work as we can, and then go down to Melbourne and try to compete against a very, very good finals football team."
While the departing Bulldogs captain admits his team had underperformed over the final third of the season, Ennis said they were well aware of where their problems have lied and was confident of their ability to turn it around in the big games.
"I think it's pretty simple for us. We hang onto the footy and we put ourselves in the contest," he said.
"Coming into this finals series, we're probably making up the numbers externally. People think that we're just here to fill in Sunday for a game, but we certainly know what we're capable of if we hang onto the football. And in the big games this year we've been able to do that."
Ennis also opened up on his highly-publicised relationship with the game's officials, and was grateful for his coach's endorsement of his captaincy over the weekend.
"He came out and said he just wants me to keep doing what I'm doing, because he knows how I feel about my teammates and what I'm out there to do," Ennis said.
"At the end of the day there was a lot of talk about the Souths game, but on numerous occasions I was called out to talk to the referee so it wasn't me going to them.
"It's done and dusted now. I've moved forward and now there's a final series ahead and we're all looking forward to that."
Despite their shock golden point loss to the Titans last week, Ennis said he was buoyed by the return of Josh Reynolds and co-captain Frank Pritchard, and expected them to play huge roles against Melbourne.
"Having Frank back was massive. He's a champion guy to have around and I thought he had some great touches [last Sunday] so he'll be better for the run," he said.
"So will Joshy. They haven't played a lot of footy, so it was good for both of them to have a run and now we head down to Melbourne and have a good crack.
"As a side, we always enjoy coming up against Melbourne. They've obviously been a benchmark now for a long period of time. Even though they finished in the bottom half of the eight, they're still a massive danger side and I think a lot of sides in the four would be pleased they're not playing against them this week."