But it seems yesterday, Sonny Bill Williams took on a new element of his game and became an absolute workhorse for his team.
Fighting a back injury that even his own coach Steve Folkes said should have kept him out of the match, SBW led the way as the Bulldogs upset Brisbane at Suncorp. Williams was in everything, he wasn’t just scoring tries – he was slapping balls free from attackers, fetching in-goal grubbers and was the last desperate attempted tackler for several Broncos tries.
It seems SBW has added a ‘Nathan Hindmarh’ or ‘Craig Fitzgibbon’ element to his bag of tricks. An element the Bulldogs so badly needed yesterday and for the rest of this year, they have some young, raw and skilful players – but they need experience and hard work to keep winning.
Yesterday SBW had some help. Ball playing backrower Reni Maitua also had a strong game (Maitua should have also been on the sideline with his own injury woes), hooker Corey Hughes a rib injury, Le Te Maari a hip â€¦ They were all putting their hand up for the club.
“We had a few blokes that played with things they probably shouldn’t have,” Folkes said. “But they just wanted to play. Sometimes, the power of the mind â€¦”
“He probably played with something he maybe shouldn’t have played with,” Folkes confirmed. “That’s the spirit. There’s been a lot of talk about the team being down â€¦ we’ve been getting bombarded from all areas. But the players and coaching staff are tight-knit. It’s a really good reward for them. They’ve been trying bloody hard, and people don’t see that. They only see them on the weekend.”
Even Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett threw some praise SBW’s way: “He was outstanding. No one probably tried much harder than he did all day. He was on the right side of the field, left side of the field, he was everywhere. He played himself into the ground.”
In a Round of upsets it seems the Dogs pulled off one of the biggest of them all. The Dogs had dropped 5 games straight and had several team members injured and struggling to believe, with skipper Andrew Ryan admitting the past few months had been the toughest period he had experienced in his NRL career.
“We’ve been working our backsides off, and so to not come away with the wins, it’s been disappointing,” Ryan said. “But that’s what made today a little bit more special.
“It’s definitely the toughest, especially as we’re right down at the bottom of the table. The most frustrating thing is the last team we beat was Cronulla. And today we beat Brisbane. They’re two of the better teams. But people expect success. In a successful team, it hurts.”
Said Folkes: “It’s been really difficult for everyone at the club. Obviously, the expectation is that we’re successful, and that hasn’t been happening. It’s just a real good reward for the players, because they’ve been turning up every day and working really hard. I’m really proud of the way they played against a pretty good side.”
After the Bulldogs’ previous failure, a horror loss to South Sydney, prop Jarrad Hickey was hurting more than anyone. He had given away the ball that allowed Rabbitohs fullback Luke Capewell to score in golden-point extra time.
He too carried an injury into yesterday’s encounter, a corked thigh, and was as good as he was the previous week, without the howler to spoil it.
“I was shattered at the end of the game, very disappointed,” Hickey said. “It was probably the lowest I’ve felt. But my family and friends, my teammates, they really stuck by me. I was getting a bit depressed after the game, but they told me not to worry about it. It was just a mistake, one of those things. I don’t even care about it now.
“I reckon I’ll have a lot more lows and a lot more highs in football. If that’s the lowest I’ll feel in my life, I’ll have a pretty good life.”
BULLDOGS 26 (D Holdsworth H Nanai A Taumata S Williams tries H El Masri 5 goals) bt BRISBANE 18 (M Ennis S Thaiday P Wallace tries M Ennis 3 goals) at Suncorp Stadium. Referee: T Archer. Crowd:Â 37,683.