Bulldogs v Rabbitohs
The rugby league rhetoric surrounding grand final rematches almost writes itself.
Defeated team wanting to exact revenge is a given. Victorious team wanting to assert dominance is certain. The Bulldogs coach will shower the defending premiers with accolades, while the Rabbitohs coach will bathe the runners-up in adulation.
And then there's this: Queensland's best centre faces against New South Wales' best winger in a battle of the fullbacks; the British Bulldog squares off against the British Burgi; and then there's the all-encompassing contest between two sets of halves combinations that Blues coach Laurie Daley will especially have eyes for.
Folks, welcome to the gigantic grand final rematch on a grudge-filled Good Friday, where only chocolates but no trophy are up for grabs.
If the Rabbitohs needed any more motivation for this one, then they got it spanked on them by the resurgent Eels during their stunning 29-16 collapse last Friday night.
On the same evening, the Bulldogs got out of jail against the Wests Tigers by stealing a 25-24 comeback win in golden point.
Both teams have sauntered to a 3-1 opening month that has them neatly seated in the top four, but defeat on Friday afternoon could drop one of them all the way out of the top eight.
Bulldogs coach Des Hasler has recalled the services of Brett Morris (calf) and Tim Lafai (quad), as well as the surprise early return of five-eighth Josh Reynolds (fractured arm). The incumbent NSW pivot has missed just three games after it was initially feared he'd miss six, but his recovery means field-goal hero Moses Mbye has been shafted to an extended bench.
Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire named an unchanged line-up on Tuesday, adding Jason Clark and Nathan Brown as 18th and 19th men.
Watch Out Bulldogs: The Rabbitohs are a slightly different beast to the one you saw on that first Sunday in October last year. Sam Burgess and Ben Te'o are both gone. However Hasler would be well-acquainted with the skinny version of Glenn Stewart he coached a few seasons ago, the same bloke who has added some skill and guile to the Bunnies' bash and brawn.
Watch Out Rabbitohs: These Bulldogs are also a different canine to the ones Souths trod over for that elusive trophy. Michael Ennis is gone, Sam Perrett has moved to the wing. So Maguire would be best served watching some tape of the way fresh-faced Michael Lichaa ducked under some big boys for his first try last week, and also make note of Brett Morris's support runs out the back.
Key Match-Up: Bulldogs boppers v Rampaging Rabbits. We're almost certain that at some point the lights will go out on all the Easter Show rides and all the farm animals will end up hazed in the gridlock of the parking lot, such will be the magnitude of the earthquakes when the likes of James Graham, George Burgess, Sam Kasiano, Thomas Burgess, Greg Eastwood and Tim Grant all lock horns in this one.
The History: Played 150; Bulldogs 78, Rabbitohs 68, Drawn 4. Defeat for the Bulldogs here would consign them to their fifth loss in their past six games against their modern day rivals. But check this: victory would elevate them to 84 overall victories since their inception 80 years ago, and it would be the most against any other club in its history.
What Are The Odds: Bulldogs ($2.48) V Rabbitohs ($1.50). Money is running 50/50 in this game although almost twice as many individual bets have been placed on the Rabbitohs, according to Sportsbet. Punters are sticking to 1-12 for either side to win, suggesting we're in for a close one on Good Friday. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au
Match Officials: Referee – Gerard Sutton; Assistant Referee – Gavin Morris; Touch Judges – Grant Atkins & Nick Beashel; Video Referees – Bernard Sutton & Luke Phillips.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live from 4pm (AEDT)
The Way We See It: Too tough to call, too close to split. Toss a coin, draw it out of a hat. Not even the home ground advantage can save us in this one. So we'll pick the best player on the field – Greg Inglis – and say his goanna will be the difference. Rabbitohs by four.