Bulldogs want tough fight from Tigers
September 3, 2009 - 3:26PM
Bulldogs lock David Stagg wants the Wests Tigers to cut loose at the Sydney Football Stadium on Friday, desperate for his men to face an attacking onslaught on the eve of the NRL finals.
The Bulldogs can secure the minor premiership with victory against the Tigers, but they’ll be hoping it’s not all one-way traffic after cruising through the past five weeks without facing a side that will play in this year’s finals series.
Not since their July 25 loss to Parramatta have the Dogs confronted a top-eight team, and Stagg said while the easy run hasn’t been mentioned at the club, he knows they need a tough hit out ahead of the finals next week.
And the tasks don’t get much tougher than a Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah side playing without the pressure of finals qualification.
“They can’t make the eight now and they’re going to play a bit of footy and I think that is a good challenge for us,” said Stagg.
“Having a side that throws the ball around will prove a challenge and we will try to shut them down and that will put us in good stead for the finals.”
Skipper Andrew Ryan admitted their recent run - with wins over the Warriors, Roosters, Cowboys, Raiders and Rabbitohs - made it hard to gauge whether the Dogs had lifted with the rest of the competition.
“I still think we’ve got a lot of work to do, I think defensively we can still improve a fair bit,” said Ryan.
"We probably haven’t played any of the real top teams lately, so we don’t probably know where we are at really.
"But I guess the pleasing thing for us as a team, we are still winning games, so that’s all we can ask for.
“Hopefully we can raise the bar in the semis.”
Even though the Tigers cannot reach the finals, Bulldogs coach Kevin Moore still rates them among the top teams on current form.
And he doesn’t believe his side’s recent run of opponents will leave them exposed football of a higher intensity when the finals start next week.
“Their (Tigers) form over the last six or seven weeks I think they’ve been up with the top two or three sides,” said Moore.
"We’ve had a couple of really tough runs throughout the year so I think one of the challenges from a coaching point of view is to have yourself fresh at the appropriate times throughout the season.
“I think we’re at a stage now where we’re just getting ourselves into good form and I really believe we have some good improvement left in us over the next few weeks.”
Moore is reinforced his belief that makeshift halfback Daniel Holdsworth can fill the void left by injured star Brett Kimmorley, labelling his role in the club’s 26-10 win over Melbourne in round 11 when Kimmorley picked up an early injury as “close to our best performance of the year.”
“He has come in and played three games in the halves and we’ve won all three,” said Moore.
"I think we’ve proven this year we’re certainly not a one-man team.
"We are the sort of side that relies on everyone to do their job, so it’s not just about Daniel.
“It’s about the 17 to perform and the better the other 16 go I think the easier it makes it for Daniel.”