Four months after sending Canterbury’s NRL season into a downward spiral, South Sydney can do it again on Friday night.
The Bulldogs were left reeling in the aftermath of their infamous Good Friday loss to reigning premiers the Rabbitohs in April, with three players, including skipper James Graham, suspended and fullback Brett Morris and centre Tim Lafai incurring long-term injuries.
Those players missed a combined total of 19 games as a result of the fiery encounter, sparking a mid-season slump in which the Bulldogs lost five of six games and fell to 13th spot on the ladder.
Canterbury coach Des Hasler admitted on Thursday it took a long time for the team to recover from the loss.
“For the players, it did. We had a couple of injuries in there, and a couple of suspensions,” he said.
“But that’s just part and parcel of the game.”
Hasler’s men have since recovered to climb to seventh spot with 26 points, but will be in real danger of missing the finals should they succumb to Souths again at ANZ Stadium on Friday.
They have lost five of their past six against South Sydney and have St George-Illawarra and Manly just behind them on 24 points.
In an eerie reminder of last year’s grand final, both sides are missing starting hookers.
Rabbitohs rake Issac Luke has been rubbed out for week due to a dangerous throw, while Bulldogs No.9 Michael Lichaa suffered a season-ending ankle injury last week.
In just his second game for the Rabbitohs, sacked Gold Coast utility Paul Carter will deputise for Luke, while unknown hooker Damien Cook will play his first game in more than 12 months in place of Lichaa.
“He’s been waiting for his opportunity,” Hasler said of Cook.
“He’s an experienced campaigner, a good footballer and he’ll do the job tomorrow night.”
STATS THAT MATTER:
* South Sydney’s three-game winning streak over Canterbury is their best since the early 1970s
* The Bulldogs have just one win in six games against teams currently in the top four
* Rabbitohs second-rower Glenn Stewart plays his 200th game, while Bulldogs second-rower Frank Pritchard run out for his 100th game for the club