Round 23 of the Telstra Premiership kicked off with an arm-wrestling match-up between the three in a row Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and the Parramatta Eels.
There was a lot on the line for both clubs, Parramatta searching for a possible top four position and Bulldogs hoping to keep the dream of a finals fairy-tale alive. A what a fairy-tale we could have on our hands.
Even at a whopping $51 to make the top eight, Josh Jackson’s Bulldogs are reluctant to give up. Being led around by a healthy general in Kieran Foran and his charming apprentice, Lachlan Lewis, the Bulldogs are building something that the public viewed would only start to happen next year – the club returning to better days.
The team who were stuck at the bottom of the ladder during the start of the season have gelled together, moulding a proud attitude.
“We deserved that I think. We had a really tough training session the week before the Penrith game and since then, there has been a real shift,” Lachlan Lewis said after last weeks game against the Rabbitohs.
Any coach would have loved to be a fly on the wall during that training session. In five weeks, the club has gone from a 28-6 loss in Brisbane to only conceding five tries in the past four games.
The playing group have certainly bundled into a tighter side since and there is no better example then the incident between Nathan Brown and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.
Paramatta’s hot headed Nathan Brown was on a hunt for blood. The three defensive sets leading up to the shoulder charge, Brown was rushing out of the line trying to make a big collision to get his squad motivated.
Frustrated he couldn’t get the shot legally, Brown decided to make it by breaking two rules; an illegal shoulder charge and a late tackle.
As the Bulldogs players were watching the replay of the shoulder charge that Brown will likely spend 2-3 weeks on the sideline for, their skipper Josh Jackson wasn’t going to let the Brown get sent to the bin without giving him a few choice words, “f***ing wanker, f***ing late and f***ing shoulder charge.”
Brown and Jackson grab collars and it’s on… well, not quite.
As soon as Brown and Jackson square up, nine out of 13 Bulldogs players on the field are in among it, backing up their leader. But where were the Eels? The team didn’t seem to have much urgency at all to defend their teammate. That moment is where the game was won.
This instance is similar to Wally and MG, or Arthur Beetson hitting Mick Cronin in the first State of Origin.
It’s a leader stepping away from the professional, example setting role, and being a protector for his players.
Josh Jackson could’ve been like any other captain and just let the referees do their job, but in sticking up for his players in that moment, he achieved what Nathan Brown was trying to get, a lift.
Josh showed his team that he was going to give his all for them, he was going to fight for them, and he wasn’t going to let them down.
In response, his team lifted for Josh, putting in massive defensive effort to stop Maika Sivo from scoring multiple tries and not showing any sign of weakness in the last two minutes where they defended their line.
In rugby league there are many small moments like this in a game that doesn’t necessarily get recognised but has a massive effect on the outcome of a game.
On back to back wins against top eight teams, the Bulldogs have their rosary beads out for 11 games in the next three weeks to go their way to achieve their fairy-tale of bottom place to finals.
The odds are against them, but their heads are held high, proud to be Bulldogs, and it’s going to be very enjoyable watching how they string performances together next season.