Bulldogs need to overcome finals wobbles

JOE BARTON
Last updated 09:34 24/09/2012
Bulldogs
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KIWI TRIO: The Bulldogs' New Zealand internationals (from left) Greg Eastwood, Sam Perrett and Krisnan Inu.

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They are the minor premiers and may even start favourites on Sunday, but Canterbury will need to overcome a horror grand final record among their playing group to cap the year with a premiership.

With the vast majority of their lineup preparing for their first NRL grand final, the Bulldogs have just one legitimate title winner on the books - bench forward David Stagg who won with Brisbane in 2006.

Starting prop Aiden Tolman triumphed in 2009 but had that title stripped, the same as the bulk of his opponents this weekend, for salary cap breaches at Melbourne.

England international James Graham won a Super League title with St Helens in 2006 - before starting a staggering streak that saw him involved in five losing grand finals.

The same goes for mid-season buys Krisnan Inu, who has only lost one match since arriving at Belmore in May, and Sam Perrett.

Inu featured in deciders in 2009 at Parramatta and last year at the Warriors, finishing the loser on both occasions, while Perrett's Sydney Roosters were blown off the park by St George Illawarra in 2010 in his only grand final.

"It's a funny experience (playing in grand finals). It's hard to put it into words," Graham explained.

"Unfortunately I've been on the wrong end of the last five when I played for St Helens.

"It's a different team and it's hard to say (what my advice is), but I'll probably just let them get on with it and deal with it in their own way.

"I'm sure (coach) Des (Hasler) and the rest of the staff will have them well prepared on how they need to act this week.

"I'm sure they'll try to play it as low key as possible."

By contrast, Melbourne's big guns Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk, Ryan Hoffman and Billy Slater have all experienced success on the biggest stage - even if their premierships were rescinded in 2010.

The Storm playing group have 19 grand finals between them, and 13 victories.

It's a feature that concerns Bulldogs' strike centre Josh Morris, who is one of 12 grand final debutants for the blue-and-whites.

"They've got grand final experience right across the board there," Morris said.

"I thought they were very clinical the other night (in their 40-12 win over Manly)."

Inu, who lost to the Storm in '09, believes Sunday is his best chance of winning a competition.

"No disrespect to the last two teams and two games I played in grand finals, but I think we've shown we have the team to be in the grand final," Inu said.

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"But we'll see how things pan out. We've got Melbourne.

"You always have to be 100 per cent against them or you'll get your pants pulled down."

Working in Canterbury's favour is the miracle work of coach Des Hasler, who has a strong record in big games.

At Manly Hasler reached three grand finals, finishing with two premiership rings - with the one loss against Melbourne in 2007.

CANTERBURY'S LIMITED GF EXPERIENCE

NRL premiership winners: David Stagg (Brisbane, 2006)

Super League premiership winners: James Graham (St Helens, 2006)

Grand final winners: Aiden Tolman (Melbourne, 2009)

Grand final losers: 5 James Graham (St Helens, 2007-2011), 2 Krisnan Inu (Parramatta 2009, Warriors 2011), Sam Perrett (Sydney Roosters 2010).

Grand final debutants: Ben Barba, Josh Morris, Jonathan Wright, Josh Reynolds, Kris Keating, Michael Ennis, Sam Kasiano, Frank Pritchard, Greg Eastwood, Josh Jackson, Dale Finucane, Corey Payne.

- AAP

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