The Roar
The Roar


Parra start the Carty Party to power past Dogs as 'broken' Foxx trots off with suspected AC joint

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9th March, 2024
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It was a case of new season, same issues at Commbank Stadium as Parramatta’s pack steamrollered the Bulldogs, who saw Josh Addo-Carr leave the game at half time with a suspected AC joint injury.

The final score was 26-8, but in truth the domination was far more than that. Canterbury have signed a raft of players but lost bulk from what was already one of the smaller packs in the competition, while the Eels live or die based on their big men.

Today, with Junior Paulo and Bryce Cartwright and centre, they were far too good. 14 offloads to just three was as good a reflection of the middle domination as one could wish for.

From the early stages, when Addo-Carr came off second best in a collision with Cartwright, the writing was on the wall. The winger soldiered on to half time but was clearly struggling and was withdrawn, with coach Cameron Ciraldo later confirming that he would go for scans on Saturday evening.

“He’s not great,” said the coach.

“He’s going for scans tonight and could have something broken up in the shoulder. I thought it was really tough of him to play through to half time.

“We’ve prepared for anything in terms of guys shifting around. We’ve got a lot of versatile players.”


He was not the only one: Mitch Moses tweaked a groin and will go for scans, though the Eels insist that it is not serious.

Cartwright was put on report for his part in the Foxx injury – it will a suprise if anything eventuates – but that was the only black mark on a stunning performance. He scored twice, offloaded at will and buzzed around the football.

Coach Brad Arthur could not be more pleased with how his side started, and though they took a while to turn their superiority into points, it was inevitable that they would.

“He’s really challenged himself,” said the coach of Cartwright.

“He’s got really good support around him from his teammates and he’s nice and comfortable off the field.

“He’s got a beautiful young family, he’s sort off the field, nice and happy. He came back on the back of his best season, in my eyes, last year. He’s had a great preseason.

“We moved him into the middle with the physicality he’s added to his game. He’s always had the skill and the footy, that’s not from us, but the physicality is really good.”


His opposite number might take heart from how his team defended, but after a 2023 ravaged by injury, it will not help at all to have lost another today. Viliame Kikau, too, was put on report.

“I couldn’t have been prouder of them,” said Ciraldo.

“I thought we were really tough, gritty. We killed ourselves at times with errors.

“I was happy with the preseason, the way they’ve come together and how they’ve worked, but the last part of the puzzle is going out and seeing how they react to adversity.

“There was plenty of it out there in the first half – we had 67% possession against us – and I thought we handled it brilliantly.”

Parra’s pack dominate

Parra’s biggest strength is their middle, which is also Canterbury’s major weakness, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Eels absolutely dominated the centre of the field.


Arthur’s decision to alter his middle, leaving Junior Paulo on the bench and sending Joe Ofahengaue on from the start, proved crucial in maintaining the rage across the journey.

While the one-two punch of Paulo and Reagan Campbell-Gillard is their best option, there was often a drop-off late in the half when both started at the same time, with the back-ups levels below the starters.

This way around, Paulo was allowed to enter around the 20th minute and wreak havoc, which he certainly did.

Prior to his entry, Parra had managed three offloads, but from that point to the break, they managed eight. Canterbury didn’t have a single one.

The Samoan international topped the metre count after

It wasn’t just Paulo. Twice in the first half, the Parra pack strung together three offloads in one play, one of which lead to Paulo barging at the posts and, from the ruck, a simple one-off play for Cartwright to stroll over.


In the second, they scored a superb try that went from Paulo to Ryan Matterson and then Cartwright again. It was like the old creeping barrage of the 1950s at times.

The Dogs didn’t help themselves at times, but against this pack in that mood, it probably didn’t matter.

It took the Eels until the 39th minute to make an error, and in 30 degrees of Western Sydney heat, that means a lot.

This was about as good as it can go for Arthur. His team generally needs to have above 50% of possession to stand a chance, and today they got a lot, lot more than that.

Time will tell if this was them being good or the Dogs being poor, but in Round 1, it’s hard to do better than holding the ball, chancing your arm when the opportunity comes and playing the entire game in the other end.

What can we read into the Dogs?


Make no bones about it, Canterbury were battered here. Concerningly for Ciraldo, they were battered in exactly the way that many predicted that they would be.

What happens when you have a killer left edge but no middles? Those superstars never touch the ball.

Addo-Carr departed at half time and was injured well before that, and Crichton and Viliame Kikau did combine for a try that made the game interesting late on, but that was just Critta’s fifth run of the football in more than 70 minutes.

The big issue last year was the defence, and the ability to limit a Parra side that enjoyed such a huge possession imbalance is a positive for the coach. Not every team will play like the Eels did today and, when that happens, the Dogs will be a better shot.

With seven players on club debut from the 17, cohesion will improve too. This is day one of a long season.

Ironically given the galaxy on the left, the best footy they put on all day was for Blake Wilson’s try, with Blake Taaffe showing what he can do over on the right edge. All these are positives.


But the underlying issue, the lack of bulk in the middle, isn’t going away. Sam Hughes, Max King and Josh Curran were serviceable in the middle but if those three are the plan for the rest of the year, this probably won’t be the last time that we mention how their superstars failed to get the service they need to show their skills.

Join the Carty Party

Bryce Cartwright has been a bit of a divisive figure over the last few years – sometimes to do with things on the field, sometimes off it.

His move to the Titans was a disaster, and sufficiently so to make people forget the raw talent he so evidently has.

Today, behind a dominant pack and empowered to find second phase, he turned in just about his best ever performance in first grade.

There’ll be tougher challenges than this Bulldogs side, but after a 2023 in which he showed glimpses of what he can do, this was about as good as it could have started.


A major criticism of Cartwright’s game would have been that he was all fur coat and no knickers, a flashy player without the necessary grit to survive.

The big improvement last year was all in his game involvement, particularly around push supports and defensive efforts.

On this evidence, that has been maintained: his first try was relatively easy, but his second came almost entirely from a desire to get up around the footy and make a difference.

He made five offloads of his own in the first hour, but it was just as impressive that he was there to take other people’s. That was what he didn’t do before.