The inequitable NRL draw is news to no one. Without true home and away play where teams face each other twice at their respective home venues, it will always remain so.
Statistically, equity is impossible. A 30-week competition with a required pause in June/July for the State of Origin series would see the season stretch well into November.
Thus, teams currently play each other once and face nine opposition clubs on two separate occasions. Exactly who those nine opponents are can shape a season.
In 2019, the crapshoot that is the NRL draw is already playing a key role in the fortunes of clubs and it can work in a number of different ways.
The Bulldogs are imploding. Despite wins against the Wests Tigers, Cowboys and Titans, their season is starting to take on a rather ominous look with a series of challenging matches looming.
For a club in rebuild; attempting to recover from salary cap mismanagement and with an inexperienced coach trying to sap every last bit of talent and effort from his young squad, a cushy draw would have been helpful.
Sadly for the blue and whites, they received anything but. Of course, one is not to know that prior to the season, with all clubs starting from base camp.
However, by mid-season, the contenders, pretenders and flat out battlers are as plain to see as the nose on your face. Just in case you haven’t noticed, the Bulldogs are confirmed battlers in season 2019.
To further enunciate their situation, the NRL has matched them up against the Storm, Roosters, Bunnies and Knights on two separate occasions in 2019.
Their season looked challenging enough yet having to then face four of the current top five teams on two separate occasions gives them less than a hope in Hades.
It potentially makes little difference to the Bulldogs themselves in the big scheme of things; they are no chance of seeing September action and were wooden spoon favourites as soon as markets opened many months back.
However, their draw is making a considerable difference to the competition, with all clubs going into a match against Dean Pay’s men fairly confident of victory.
Those with the luxury of doing that on two occasions are rubbing their hands with glee.
St George-Illawarra, another side blessed with a pairing of match-ups against the Dogs, have already parlayed their fortune.
The Dragons annihilated the Bulldogs 40-4 at Kogarah in Round 5 before repeating the dose on Monday in the traditional Queen’s Birthday match at ANZ Stadium. The two wins convert to a 76-16 overall drubbing and it does wonders for the Red V’s confidence and their for-and-against record.
Despite sitting at -42 in that statistical category, the Dragons are well and truly entrenched in the fight for a spot inside the eight; now shading the Tigers and Cowboys on for-and-against and within touching distance of the Broncos and Eels.
Of course, they won’t be the only beneficiaries of the hapless Dogs. The Storm has already taken four competition points from their two clashes. The Broncos, Knights, Bunnies and Eels will have the return fixture circled on their calendars; knowing full well that the two points should be assured, whilst the Roosters have two matches against the Bulldogs to look forward to, starting this week at the SCG.
After three consecutive losses, talk of the Roosters putting up a cricket score at such an appropriate venue is a little unfounded. However, the Tri-colours will most likely use the match to make a statement, regain some form and get their season back on track.
A match against the NRL’s weakest opposition comes at the absolute perfect time for the chooks. Should they win and win well, they will not be the first team played back into form by the Bulldogs.
Let’s not forget that Monday’s public holiday clash saw the Dragons use the Dogs as a springboard to find some much-needed form after five poor losses. Just a week earlier, the Raiders did the same.
After consecutive losses to the Roosters, Rabbitohs and Cowboys, the green machine limped over the line by 12-10 at ANZ Stadium to also recapture their winning ways.
It seems the Bulldogs have something of a skill for playing teams back into form. Should it happen for the fourth time in as many weeks, the Sharks, Knights, Broncos and Roosters will already be queuing up as Canterbury’s next four opponents.
The Bulldogs score just 12.6 points per game and concede 23.0. They have the worst defence and the worst attack in the competition.
How enjoyable for those afforded the opportunity of playing them twice? Conversely, Canterbury fans are not enjoying the NRL draw nor the season one little bit.