Bulldogs v Dragons preview

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v St George Illawarra Dragons Monday 4:00pm at ANZ Stadium

Traditional rivals face off in must-win encounter

Anchored to the bottom of the NRL ladder with just three wins over the first half of the season, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will be desperate to account for a St George Illawarra Dragons side currently in the midst of their worst losing run since 2016.

Unable to capitalise upon a depleted Canberra Raiders side last Saturday, going down 12-10 at ANZ Stadium, Bulldogs coach Dean Pay will be desperate for results to improve having failed to advance the team's winning percentage over the same time period last year.

Holding an impressive 12 from 15 record over the Dragons since 2012, the blue and whites will be hoping to continue their success in the public holiday fixture; winning three of the four matches held since being adopted on a regular basis four years ago.

Opting against large-scale changes despite succumbing to their ninth loss this season, Queensland enforcer Dylan Napa has been included on an extended bench with a decision to be made pending the outcome of Wednesday's opening Origin fixture.

Coming into Monday's match off the back of five consecutive losses - their worst losing streak since post-Origin 2016 - the St George Illawarra Dragons will be hoping a week off with the bye brings about renewed on-field fortune.

Suffering a lacklustre 22-9 loss to Cronulla a fortnight ago, Dragons coach Paul McGregor has received mixed news on the injury front with former Canterbury duo James Graham and Tim Lafai unavailable for the next six weeks, while regaining the services of reliable journeyman Jeremy Latimore and gun playmaker Corey Norman in a major boon to the side's chances.

Winning two of their past three clashes against Canterbury, including a dominant 40-4 performance at Kogarah earlier this season, the joint venture has struggled at ANZ Stadium since McGregor took charge midway through 2014, winning just six of 20 matches at the venue.

Falling from sixth to 13th on the premiership ladder during the five match run of losses, the Dragons have made several changes headlined by fullback Matt Dufty earning a recall and Corey Norman returning after a month out with a fractured cheekbone. With Ben Hunt, Paul Vaughan and Tyson Frizell having five days to back up from Wednesday night's opening State of Origin fixture all three players have been included on the extended bench, with Jai Field, Josh Kerr and debutant Lachlan Timm preferred in the starting squad.

Last meeting: Round 5 2019 - Dragons 40 Bulldogs 4

Who to watch: Growing in confidence after stringing together an uninterrupted run of appearances in the halves, Bulldogs halfback Jack Cogger has found his feet in the top grade under Dean Pay this season. Unable to cement a regular position during his three years at Newcastle due to preferred playmakers and injury, the 21-year-old has shown moments of class since beating out Lachlan Lewis for the chance to partner Kieran Foran in the halves, with his running game being a particular stand-out since assuming the number seven jersey. Going toe to toe with two of the most experienced playmakers in the game today, look for Cogger to rise to the challenge as he strives to lift the blue and whites off the bottom of the ladder.

Making a much-needed return from injury to help the Dragons get back on course, Corey Norman shapes as the man most likely to get the Red V back into the winner's circle. Missing the past month with a fractured eye socket sustained in the loss to Parramatta, the 27-year-old playmaker has shown tremendous poise in a short period of time at the club, including nailing two match-sealing field goals earlier this season. Winning six of his past seven clashes opposite the Bulldogs, look for Norman to provide the Dragons with the confidence needed to move within striking distance of the top eight.

The favourite: With Corey Norman back and their representative trio likely to take the field, the Dragons are favoured to score a much-needed win.

My tip: Defying their standing at the bottom of the ladder, the spirit shown by the Bulldogs in recent weeks should bring about a performance good enough to come away with two competition points on Monday afternoon. Bulldogs by 2.

1. Nick Meaney 2. Christian Crichton 3. Marcelo Montoya 4. Will Hopoate 5. Reimis Smith 6. Kieran Foran 7. Jack Cogger 8. Aiden Tolman 9. Jeremy Marshall-King 23. Dylan Napa 11. Josh Jackson 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. Adam Elliott 10. Ofahiki Ogden 14. Rhyse Martin 15. Danny Fualalo 17. Sauaso Sue

1. Matthew Dufty 2. Jonus Pearson 3. Euan Aitken 4. Zac Lomax 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 20. Ben Hunt 8. Blake Lawrie 9. Cameron McInnes 22. Paul Vaughan 21. Tyson Frizell 12. Tariq Sims 11. Jacob Host 7. Jai Field 10. Korbin Sims 14. Jeremy Latimore 15. Reece Robson

Referees: Gerard Sutton, Liam Kennedy; Sideline Officials: Rickey McFarlane, Belinda Sharpe; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Bryan Norrie;

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