Moses Mbye has a chance to prove he’s one of the NRL’s elite playmakers when he takes on the man who, at one time, almost wore his Canterbury No.6 jumper in Friday’s blockbuster with Parramatta.
Four years ago, Canterbury coach Des Hasler came close to luring Eels superstar Kieran Foran to Belmore in what would have been a massive coup and changed the shape of the club.
That missed opportunity could come back to bite Hasler when the two traditional rivals collide at ANZ Stadium in what shapes as a battle of two of the form teams of the competition.
However, stopping Hasler from dwelling on the past is the form of Mbye, the rising playmaker who appears to be blooming into a superstar himself.
Over the first two rounds, Mbye has arguably been the best player in the competition, his class demonstrated by scoring the match-winning try in last Thursday’s close shave against Penrith.
Mbye came into the season with question marks hanging over him following the departure of NSW State of Origin halfback Trent Hodkinson but has been a big part of their 2-0 start.
The Bulldogs have been further boosted by firebrand prop David Klemmer’s judiciary exoneration over a contrary conduct charge for touching a referee, clearing him for what shapes as a willing contest between two of the competition’s best packs.
“I’ve been really impressed with (Parramatta), they beat the premiers (North Queensland) last week and they really hung in there for the whole game,” Hasler said.
“I’m sure that’s something (coach Brad Arthur) would have been working on all off-season and they’re going to be a very tough side.
“I’m pleased we’re playing them early because they’re only going to get better.”
While Eels fans have not yet seen the best of Foran in a blue and gold jumper, after missing round one and struggling at times last week against the Cowboys with a niggling hamstring strain, Hasler predicts he isn’t far off getting back to his best.
Arthur said Foran’s influence was keenly felt in last week’s upset 20-16 upset of the Cowboys and his ability to remain calm and maintain self belief in tight finishes was something they had been missing the past couple of years.
“His calmness, especially at the back end of the game, and his talk was really positive and got the forwards home,” Arthur said.
STATS THAT MATTER:
* The Bulldogs have won eight of their past nine games between the two sides
* Parramatta are searching for back-to-back wins for just the second time since the start of 2015
* Canterbury have lost only one of their past nine matches, with four of those decided by two points or less