I remember what late July used to feel like.
We’ve come through the Origin period okay. We’ve dropped a game or two that we didn’t expect, but we’re still in the eight, we’ve got players coming back and our run to October glory is looking perfectly timed.
Unfortunately for us Bulldogs fans it’s a memory that’s fading faster than a Queenslander’s curtains. We’ve passed the point in the season where we’re even a remote mathematical chance.
So it’s time to turn the attention to which semi-final bound bandwagon I’m going to hitch a ride on and the relative pros and cons of each.
Pros: they’re so damned good! Jump on the Storm wagon and you are likely to have a successful September. Most of their team are among the top couple of players in their positions and brilliant to watch. Their game is as clean and perfectly coordinated as the inner workings of a Swiss watch.
Cons: they’re so damned good! We get it, okay. You guys are good. You don’t have to keep winning everything to prove it. Three premierships in nine years. Four grand final appearances in the past five years. Enough already!
Verdict: not enough underdog factor.
Pros: the Panthers are also great to watch and brutal in their execution. They have a total football approach where even their tough guys like Isaah Yeo and James Fisher-Harris are potential ball players. Speaking of JFH – he’s my favourite (non-Bulldogs) player in the comp right now with Brian To’o not far behind. It’ll also be nice to see Matt Burton, Brent Naden and Tevita Pangai Jr strut into Belmore next year with a premiership title.
Cons: anyone noticed that with some of their fans it’s almost like they’ve won already. ‘It’s obvious really, if you want sustained success like ours you must build your junior pathways. Why don’t the Roosters produce as many juniors as we do, I just don’t get it?’ It’s two premierships in 50-plus years. From a selfish point of view, they’re one of the few clubs whose most recent premiership was longer ago than the Bulldogs.
Verdict: I’d be really happy to see this group of players and their playing style get a premiership. They’re probably my second pick and if it gets down to a grand final replay as expected, I’m definitely on board.
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Pros: foundation club with a huge supporter base. It’s awesome and maybe under-appreciated to have a club in the NRL with such strong links to our Indigenous community. I don’t think there’s many major sports or clubs in the world that can say that. Respect. On the field they have a scintillating back line, particularly down the left edge. I could also get behind seeing Clint Eastwood walking off into the sunset with a final premiership.
Cons: having to watch Rusty get that f***ing bell out again and listen to ‘Glory, Glory’ before kick off. Just quietly some of their fans are hard to deal with too… if you don’t want to change your last name to Burgess, you’re a hater. It’s a tough hang listening to them bang on about premierships won 60 years before they were born too.
Verdict: only if they’re playing Parra. Or Melbourne.
Pros: I like some of their players? Their home ground is nice? Geez, this is tough…
Cons: not much point jumping on a bandwagon that will be out in straight sets again. I’m trying to escape that sort of disappointment. Don’t really want to see that 1986 drought broken either.
Verdict: I’m a Bulldogs fan of the ’80s. I’m more likely to find a cure for COVID than cheer for the Eels.
Pros: how good would it be seeing Josh Morris get a premiership? Given their injury troubles this year it’s hard for the long standing jealousy not to start melting into a little bit of pity.
Cons: they’ve played in eight of the last 21 grand finals and have four premierships in that period. Give someone else a go. No, not you Melbourne, you’ve had your turn too. Worst of all if they win, we’ll get six months of refs faulting and salary sombrero sour grapes, especially if they knock out the Raiders.
Verdict: I could jump on if they somehow went deep, but it’s hard to see them getting past Week 2.
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Pros: Tom Trbojevic. The thought of him tearing up a semi-final series is mouth watering. I also like their back row of Jake Trbojevic, Josh Schuster and Haumole Olakau’atu. Throw in some former Bulldogs in Marty Taupau and Morgan Harper and what’s not to like? See below.
Cons: Dylan Walker. Dylan Walker. I know technically that’s only one reason, but it’s such a big one I thought it was worth mentioning twice. Hard to turn around a lifetime of ‘hating’ Manly.
Verdict: the Walker factor makes it tough but Tommy and the Eagles (is that a potential band name?) are the best thing to happen this season and the most likely to cause an upset to the top two. Sorry Manly fans, move over, I think I’m jumping on.
I guess we can’t rule out the fairytale factor that would accompany a Dragons, Raiders, Sharks or Knights deep run but at this stage there’s no point jumping on a bandwagon that will only travel a week down the road.