Bulldogs to draw on 2014 for inspiration
The Bulldogs entered the 2014 finals out of sorts with six losses from their last eight matches but turned it around to win three straight games to secure a spot in the grand final, which they eventually lost 30-6 to the Rabbitohs.
There are plenty of similarities between that side and the one preparing to take on the Panthers on Sunday, and the players say they will draw on that experience when the playoffs begin.
Both teams finished the regular season in seventh spot on the ladder (the 2016 side even won an extra game), while in 2014 scoring points was a genuine concern and they were tipped by most to be convincingly beaten in the first week of the finals.
Against all odds they proved the punters wrong with a one-sided 28-4 victory in Melbourne before edging past the Sea Eagles in golden point and downed the Panthers in the preliminary final to advance to the decider.
Bulldogs five-eighth Josh Reynolds said the spirit of that campaign remained with the current playing group and was confident they could go on a similar run again.
"Everyone's written us off, but it's happened to us before," Reynolds said.
"In 2014 the same thing [happened]. We played a terrible last game against the Titans and went to Melbourne and did a job on them. We've definitely got the belief here to do that and it's in our hands.
"I'm drawing from that [finals campaign]. That's why I think no one's in there with their heads down because it's happened before."
No matter what form the Bulldogs take into a finals series they always seem to find a way to win, and according to Reynolds a lot of that down comes to their coach Des Hasler.
Two of their last three wins in finals matches have been in golden point, and it's that ability to compete until the final whistle that Reynolds believes holds them in good stead compared to some of the other sides still left in the competition.
"Des gets us ready pretty well for the semis and I feel like other teams take a different approach going into the semis," he said.
"Some teams might come out and feel like they have to start big and win it early, but in the end it's going to come down to the 70th, the 75th, the 78th [minutes]. Semi-finals are never really blow-away games and I think that suits us.
"In 2014 we went to Melbourne and no one expected us to win. We got the win over one of the best sides and then we just got on a bit of a roll.
"Us coming seventh, it probably isn't a bad thing that we have to play all the games because I think we do need to get on a bit of a roll. Fingers crossed we can win this week and keep going."
Teammate Josh Jackson agreed that their run from two seasons ago would instil the squad with self-belief leading into the finals.
"It was a pretty similar situation to what we're in now," Jackson said. "I guess you can take the experience and the confidence that you know it's definitely possible."
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