Veteran Bulldogs flanker Hazem El Masri achieving his goal of the highest ever Rugby League point scorer – finally eclipsing Andrew Johns’ mark of 2,176 points.
It was a buoyant Bulldogs crowd of near 20,000 at ANZ Stadium, braving the weather but getting treated to a display worthy of the 1970’s – 1980’s Canterbury sides dubbed the ‘Entertainers’. The fact that Hazem achieved his milestone in this game, made things so much sweeter.
The radar boot kicking 7 from 7 in horrific conditions, as thunder and torrential rain continued to pound the Stadium Australia turf.Regardless of the consistent, driving rain – the Bulldogs came to play expansive football. The tougher conditions didn’t seem to phase them as they went on the attack from the opening minutes.
Boom Bulldogs rookie Jamal Idris crashing over for an early try, in an effort that looked almost identical to Greg Inglis’ one when he launched Soward into the air. This time, Idris another big, rangy centre ran over the top of Orford and Robertson to get his side away to a flyer.
The enthusiasm in this new Bulldogs side was immediately evident after this Idris try. The live-wire Ennis was jumping round like a madman and giving Manly his verbal best and it seemed to be contagious, with Brett Kimmorley the other ringmaster as the Bulldogs set the standard from the outset.
While Manly might have had their heads in the place after weeks of drama, take nothing away from the Bulldogs. Their forwards dominating the Manly pack for the most part, playing physical and error-free, allowing previously shackled Bulldogs Roberts, Patten and Barba to run free.
With heavy rain continuing to fall, it was still 22-0 to the Bulldogs at half time. They tackled like their lives depended on it, they threw themselves on 50/50 balls and belted Manly into submission whenever they had the chance.
The recruitment of Brett Kimmorley seems an ideal fit for the Bulldogs. While some have questioned his flat style in the past, it looks perfect for the younger Bulldogs. Kimmorley was constantly directing traffic and his young chargers were responding to every call.
Another former Shark Bryson Goodwin also slotted in well, the handy flanker defusing some tough balls and attacking at will all night. Goodwin rewarded with a nice try in the corner for his efforts.
If Manly felt they had any chance after half-time, it was quickly quashed – with the probing Ennis nabbing an ill-directed attacking kick from Orford and sending Josh Morris on an 80m run to score untouched.
It was 28-6 and all over with 30 minutes to play. The rain simply did not effect the Bulldogs. When Manly tried to counter with risky plays, they just wouldn’t stick – new pivot Bailey coughing up several balls, as did the usually trustworthy Jamie Lyon.
Such was the dominance of the Bulldogs, the usually clean skin Manly lashed out through Matt Ballin. The hooker looking to be in hot water after a deliberate knee to the head of Ben Roberts, as the whistle blew – the usually sedate Ballin unleashed a further flurry of punches which saw him immediately sin binned.
This was a Manly side well and truly rattled.
It wasn’t only Ballin lashing out, the likes of Brent Kite another clean-skin was pulled up for a dangerous grapple that put his namesake John Kite in a dangerous position for the Bulldogs.
Some consolation for the Premiers came in the last 2 minutes as Lyon managed a an intercept from a Kimmorley pass running 10m to score.
Coach Des Hasler will hope it was just an off-night – but with several injuries and suspensions now in place, with the likelihood of losing Ballin for 4 weeks over his deliberate knee could see the Manly side struggle.
Hasler and Orford believed the drama through the week had not been responsible for their massive loss.
“Under the circumstances I think it was the best we had to deal with,” Orford said.
“We’re all professional footballers, it’s our job and definitely not one player in our team would use that as an excuse for how we performed tonight.”
For the Bulldogs and new coach Kevin Moore, the pieces of the puzzle look to be going quickly into the right slots. Their recruitment after tonights performance looks a winner, with consistency and depth the remaining tests – as last years wooden spooners not only get back to the winners circle, but sky rocket to the top of the charts.
The memory of Sonny Bill Williams now long forgotten, the walk-out of their expensive former forward who was seemingly always injured has proved a life-saver for the club.
The money freed up by Williams has allowed them to nab stars such as Brett Kimmorley, Ben Hannant, Michael Ennis, David Stagg, Bryson Goodwin and Michael Robertson all proving well worth the change.
The new faces not only performing well, but more likely to spend much more time on the park than the former no. 11 ever did.