Bulldog Andrew Ryan successfully fought his high tackle charge tonight at the NRL judiciary – clearing him to meet his old club the Parrmatta Eels in Friday nights blockbuster. It was the old ‘human movement’ expert defence for Ryan – with still photo’s and plenty of stats put forward on his behalf. His defence team taking the line that Ryan had 0.2 of a second to react to the tackle change as Jason Ryles fell – making it almost impossible to avoid high contact.
While the Bulldogs are still without Willie Mason and Mark O’Meley – this week the Dogs look much closer to full strength and are certainly a formidable looking side on paper. Their starting 13 look very impressive and the Eels will have their work cutout at Telstra Stadium no doubt.
As the NRL finals approach, the Bulldogs always develop their siege mentality and prepare well prior to the Top 8 kick-off. The Bulldogs have always been a finals hungry side – they are warming to some good form and will be hard to stop this Friday. At this stage, Top 8 sides would be fearing the Bulldogs and Warriors as the major darkhorses – certainly not teams you want to meet in the Semis.
More bad news for the North Queensland Cowboys; foundation player Paul Bowman failing to beat his dangerous throw charge and further testing Cowboys playing stock. With the 2nd worst defence in the NRL – the Cowboys can’t afford to be changing too many players, with the on field defence line communication at an all time low – more changes just make it harder. If they don’t pull something out of the hat this week, sadly NRL 2007 will be another memory for them. If they limp into the finals they will be cannon fodder for locally supported teams at suburban grounds.
Speaking of strugglers and team changes – the Penrith merry-go-round continues; this week coach Matt Elliott sacking Tony Puletua and promoting Luke Priddis back into the top team. Ritchie Williams also got the sack, understandable considering his poor defence at times in recent weeks. Williams is a player of the future no doubt, but needs some technique refinement first. Petero Civoniceva is going to feel plenty of pressure next year at Penrith – one man alone cannot lift this team from the cellar and Matt Elliott will be having more sleepless nights for sure.
Looking ahead to this weekend, the other interesting match up is the Gold Coast Titans at home to the Wests Tigers. With the Tigers showing some brilliance with their stars back, albeit against limping Cowboys – Sheens will want his men to prove themselves at an away ground and against quality opposition. For the Titans, the young club continues to struggle with depth – but can continue to earn respect with a solid win against the Tigers. If the Titans lose, it certainly looks like their NRL season of 2007 is over – Scott Prince returning will be a massive boost for the Coast men; and looking at their named line-up I dare say the Gold Coast Titans can win this game against the hot trotting Wests Tigers.