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Bulldogs v Sea Eagles: Thompson, Ogden out; Des shuffles backline

The Bulldogs continue their late-season quest to pass the wooden spoon to Brisbane against a Manly side seemingly at rock bottom coming off a heart-breaking loss.

Both sides have lost their past six games but while the last-placed Bulldogs have fought hard and only lost once by more than 14 in that span the Sea Eagles have slumped to 40, 30 and 24-point thrashings in a collapse that has seen them plummet from inside the eight to out of finals calculations.

Canterbury's challenge will be scoring enough to get the better of Manly, only Brisbane have scored less points than the Bulldogs in 2020, and the loss of playmaker Kieran Foran will only add to their struggles.

Manly's late capitulation to Wests Tigers last week saw them rack up their second six-game losing streak under Des Hasler's coaching and while Josh Schuster and Morgan Harper made excellent NRL and club debuts the Sea Eagles just have to do better in defence.

The rundown

Team news

Bulldogs: Englishman Luke Thompson has been ruled out with calf soreness while prop Ofahiki Ogden suffered a fractured cheekbone during the week at training and will miss the final three games of the season. Their places are taken by Matthew Doorey and Renouf To'omaga while Dean Britt and Chris Lewis are promoted to the interchange bench.

Mass changes to the backline with Marcelo Montoya, Kerrod Holland and the injured Kieran Foran all out. Jayden Okunbor will play his first game of the year on the wing and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak has moved into centre alongside the recalled Reimis Smith. Jake Averillo is named at five-eighth.

Aiden Tolman moves to prop with Dylan Napa sidelined by a knee injury. Brandon Wakeham and Sauaso Sue are the new faces on the bench.

Tuipulotu Katoa and Tim Lafai were the last two players cut an hour before game time.

The Bulldogs are aiming to avoid seven straight defeats for the first time since 2008.

Sea Eagles: The Sea Eagles will line up 1-17. The loss of winger Jorge Taufua (Achilles) and five-eighth Josh Schuster (ankle) for the rest of the season has forced a backline reshuffle. Abbas Miski will come in on the wing and Cade Cust has been recalled in the No.6 jersey. 

Highly-rated rookie centre/back-rower Ben Trbojevic and halfback/fullback Luke Metcalf were both included on the reserves but coach Des Hasler suggested on Thursday neither would make their debuts and they were omitted from the squad 24 hours before game time. 

Haumole Olakau'atu and Morgan Boyle were cut an hour before game time.

Hasler will reach the milestone of 250 games as Sea Eagles coach.

Team Lists

Backs

  • Fullback for Bulldogs is number 1 Will Hopoate
    Fullback for Sea Eagles is number 1 Tevita Funa
  • Winger for Bulldogs is number 2 Nick Meaney
    Winger for Sea Eagles is number 2 Albert Hopoate
  • Centre for Bulldogs is number 3 Reimis Smith
    Centre for Sea Eagles is number 3 Brad Parker
  • Centre for Bulldogs is number 4 Dallin Watene-Zelezniak
    Centre for Sea Eagles is number 4 Morgan Harper
  • Winger for Bulldogs is number 5 Jayden Okunbor
    Winger for Sea Eagles is number 5 Abbas Miski
  • Five-Eighth for Bulldogs is number 6 Jake Averillo
    Five-Eighth for Sea Eagles is number 6 Cade Cust
  • Halfback for Bulldogs is number 7 Lachlan Lewis
    Halfback for Sea Eagles is number 7 Daly Cherry-Evans

Forwards

  • Prop for Bulldogs is number 10 Aiden Tolman
    Prop for Sea Eagles is number 8 Addin Fonua-Blake
  • Hooker for Bulldogs is number 9 Jeremy Marshall-King
    Hooker for Sea Eagles is number 14 Lachlan Croker
  • Prop for Bulldogs is number 15 Renouf To'omaga
    Prop for Sea Eagles is number 10 Martin Taupau
  • 2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 12 Raymond Faitala-Mariner
    2nd Row for Sea Eagles is number 11 Jack Gosiewski
  • 2nd Row for Bulldogs is number 16 Matt Doorey
    2nd Row for Sea Eagles is number 12 Curtis Sironen
  • Lock for Bulldogs is number 11 Josh Jackson
    Lock for Sea Eagles is number 13 Jake Trbojevic

Interchange

  • Interchange for Bulldogs is number 14 Brandon Wakeham
    Interchange for Sea Eagles is number 9 Danny Levi
  • Interchange for Bulldogs is number 17 Sauaso Sue
    Interchange for Sea Eagles is number 15 Corey Waddell
  • Interchange for Bulldogs is number 19 Dean Britt
    Interchange for Sea Eagles is number 16 Sean Keppie
  • Interchange for Bulldogs is number 23 Chris Smith
    Interchange for Sea Eagles is number 17 Taniela Paseka

Key match-up

Will Hopoate v Tevita Funa: The Bulldogs' 157-game veteran rarely turns in a bad performance and Hopoate has again worked hard in 2020, averaging 157 meters per game in 10 outings.

The Sea Eagles rookie is just nine games into his career and while Funa's debut season has at times been rocky, and he doesn't churn out metres at the same rate as his Bulldogs opposite (96 metres per game), he does have five tries to Hopoate's two.

Stat attack

Winger Nick Meaney is Canterbury's leading try-scorer in 2020 with six four-pointers. Assuming he stays No.1, unless he averages a try a game over the final three rounds Meaney will finish with the Bulldogs' lowest season total since Darren Smith, Jason Williams and Bulldogs great Terry Lamb jointly led the club with eight tries apiece in 1992.