Kasiano ready to be let off the leash
He's been sitting on the sidelines for the past fortnight champing at the bit to get back on the field, and the Bulldogs say Sam Kasiano is ready to be let off the leash when they take on the Panthers in Sunday's elimination final at Allianz Stadium.
The Bulldogs behemoth was suspended for kicking Broncos lock Corey Parker in the face in the Round 24 loss at Suncorp Stadium and has missed the subsequent defeats to the Cowboys and Rabbitohs.
Usually injected into the action around the 20-minute mark, Kasiano has the ability to change the game with a single carry, and that's exactly what he did against the Panthers when the sides met back in Round 2.
With his side down 14-0, the 25-year-old produced a magnificent sleight of hand to release Moses Mbye before the Bulldogs halfback linked up with Will Hopoate to get the blue and whites back in the game.
"He's definitely done the job for us many times throughout the year," back-rower Josh Jackson said.
"He's been enormous for us coming off the bench so hopefully he has another big game on the weekend.
"He definitely changes the momentum for us. There have been a few times this year – probably more than a few – where we haven't had the momentum and we've been caught down our end and then 'Big Kas' comes on and charges forward and gets us the momentum.
"He's definitely a massive asset to have off the bench."
Teammate Raymond Faitala-Mariner said Kasiano has been raring to go since the Round 25 match against the Cowboys which he missed through suspension.
"He's been itching his feet since the game in Belmore," he said.
"I reckon he's ready to go and I just can't wait to see him play. We've missed his offloads, his broken play and the impact that he brings off the bench."
Kasiano won't be the only Bulldog likely to cause headaches for the Panthers defence, and Jackson said the rest of the pack would need to be at their best if they wanted to contain Penrith's attacking weapons.
"I think all games are won through the middle of the field, particularly semi-finals," he said.
"If you don't dominate the middle of the field and create that go-forward early on then you struggle throughout the rest of the game. With Penrith, I think we're just going to have to control their back five because they really get their sets rolling forward."
Panthers enforcer Suaia Matagi said his side wouldn't be intimidated by the formidable Bulldogs pack.
"Physicality has one been one of the key talks for us this week," he said.
"It's going to be a physical battle and a game that will definitely be won in the middle. We've got to lift our intensity.
"They've got a lot of ball-playing forwards so we've got to make sure we're on our 'A' game in defence to make sure we can stop it."
Teammate Trent Merrin is bracing for a midfield onslaught on Sunday afternoon and is excited by the challenge of coming up against Canterbury's star-studded front five.
"They're dangerous everywhere but the biggest thing we know is that they'll come through the middle," he said.
"They've got a massive pack – everyone knows that – and it'll be a massive challenge for us to take ownership of that and do the best we can.
"We're just going to focus on what we can control. If we get our game sorted then the rest will come off the back of that.
"We know they've got the big players in Kasiano and James Graham and players like that so it's a given that they'll come through the middle. We've just got to work real hard at training to stop that."