Broncos v Bulldogs: Five key points
Canterbury solidified their top eight spot with a come-from-behind win over competition leaders Brisbane. Here are five key points from the key clash.
Size mis-match a telling factor
Channel Nine commentator Brad Fittler described them as "the biggest team that's ever played rugby league" and the sheer size of the Bulldogs squad was always going to be the catalyst for a crucial win or their Achilles heel.
From the very first tackle of the game when Sam Thaiday was rocked by a crunching tackle from Aiden Tolman and James Graham, the big Dogs forwards pounded away at the Broncos middle third. Thaiday and Jarrod Wallace manned up bravely and Matt Gillett delivered some wonderful defence on the edge but wherever the Broncos looked there were big Canterbury bodies bearing down on them. Brett and Josh Morris threatened to power their way through with almost every touch and the introduction of David Klemmer – who amassed an extraordinary 228 metres from 20 hit-ups – allowed the visitors to continue to turn the screws as the clock counted down.
"Obviously it's plain for all to see what he brings with his strong carries of the ball," Canterbury captain James Graham said of Klemmer's contribution.
"When that 20-minute mark hits and he brings on that energy it gives that middle and the whole side a bit of a lift."
Parker etches his name further into Broncos folklore
It's a record not normally reserved for the forwards but Corey Parker notched another extraordinary achievement in his decorated career by becoming the greatest points-scorer in Broncos history on Friday night.
Although he hooked his first shot of the night, he dialled the radar in for his next sideline conversion and when he converted his own try midway through the second half from in front of the posts for his 1,192nd point the crowd of more than 34,000 responded with a standing ovation as the man he surpassed, Darren Lockyer, gave a thumbs up from the sideline.
Parker had only 18 shots at goal in his first five seasons in first grade and coach Wayne Bennett revealed after the game that his opportunity to take the role on came largely by accident.
"I only found him by accident. He was practising one day when we had Michael Ennis or someone kicking and he said, 'I can goal-kick' and I said, 'Show me what you've got,'" Bennett said.
"So he did and he's maintained the job pretty much for the rest of his career here.
"He's been remarkable, Corey, in so many ways so it's just another achievement for him."
Lichaa injury a double Bulldogs blow
Having been entrusted with the team's hooking duties in Round 1 Michael Lichaa has barely missed a minute of the Bulldogs' season and with Josh Reynolds still a fortnight away from returning from a knee injury, finding a short-term solution at No.9 will be coach Des Hasler's first course of business when he gets into the Belmore offices on Monday morning.
When Lichaa left the field with 20 minutes to play Moses Mbye moved into dummy-half which, given his form of late at five-eighth, takes away from the 'Dogs attack and what he offers on the left edge. Immediately after the game Hasler thought that the injury to Lichaa was only a minor one and was confident in the depth at the club to cover in his absence.
"He's got a knee injury, he'll probably be a week or two," Hasler said.
"Young Damien Cook has been running around [in NSW Cup]."
Bulldogs belief still intact
They travelled interstate to play the competition front-runners in danger of falling out of the top eight at the conclusion of Round 22 but Bulldogs captain James Graham said that their self belief has never been in question. Although they had lost three of their past four games, Graham said their performance in defeat last week against the Roosters gave their confidence a boost rather than knocking the wind out of their sails.
"To be honest, the whole season that self-belief has never gone," Graham said.
"It's plain for all to see that we've had some bad results but we'd like to think we've learnt from that but that self belief has never gone.
"This game is full of momentum swings and looking back to last week, once we had a bit of momentum we came back in but we didn't get the win and the momentum went back with the Roosters.
"It just shows us not to give in no matter what the score is and as long as there is a bit of time left we've always got a chance."
Tackling a tough assignment head-on
They are two of the most industrious players in the competition and opposing hookers Andrew McCullough and Michael Lichaa went hammer and tong for the title of the top tackler until Lichaa was forced from the field with 20 minutes left to play. At that point in the game the pair of No.9s had both amassed 47 tackles and were sitting first and second respectively on the list of top tacklers in the competition. McCullough, who moved to the back row when Kodi Nikorima was introduced for the Broncos 53 minutes into the game, finished with 53 tackles, setting Warriors skipper Simon Mannering a target of 70 against the Dragons to move into top spot.