The last time the Bulldogs visited the Sutherland Shire, Southern Cross Group Stadium was known as Toyota Park and the two teams bore very little resemblance to those that will take the field on Saturday night.
It was a Monday Night football clash back in 2011, between a Sharks team struggling towards the tail end of the NRL ladder and a Bulldogs club that had sacked coach Kevin Moore mid-season and would eventually finish outside the top eight.
For varying reasons, the Sharks taking a home game to Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford in 2013 and anomalies in the NRL scheduling which has seen the teams meet just once and away from the Sharks home in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016, and the Bulldog fans just might need directions to find the game on Saturday evening.
A Monday night in Round 23, 2011, was the last time the two met in the Shire, played in front of just a few more than 8,000 fans in a match where the Bulldogs would prevail, finishing on top 19-12 in claiming two premiership points that would ultimately mean little in terms of title winning prospects that particular season.
It wasn’t a game for the ages, a match the Bulldogs led 12-6 at the half time break and went on to score a seven-point victory.
Ben Barba, who would later become a Grand Final hero at the Sharks, scored a try for the Dogs, Sam Tagataese would get one for a Sharks side which had six players – Ricky Leutele, Wade Graham, Chad Townsend, Jayson Bukuya, Paul Gallen and Tagataese – who are still a part of the team today.
Those with long memories will remember the match for two incidents, one when Frank Pritchard knocked Wade Graham senseless with a shoulder charge, the second involving Jamal Idris trying to rip the shorts from Nathan Gardner, exposing the Sharks fullback’s rear end.
Five of the Bulldogs are still around and on that particular night there was no Michael Ennis for Canterbury, with Josh Reynolds wearing the number nine jersey in his absence.
Plenty of water has flowed under the bridge as they would say since that last Bulldogs visit, with the fortunes of both teams changing significantly, the Sharks claiming the title in 2016 and the Dogs becoming consistent contenders under the coaching of Des Hasler.
It will be good to have them back, with all Sharks fans encouraged to give the Dogs a very ‘special’ reception come Saturday night.
1. Nathan GARDNER 1. Ben BARBA
17. Colin BEST 2. Steve TURNER
3. Ben POMEROY 3. Josh MORRIS
4. Ricky LEUTELE 4. Jamal IDRIS
5. Nathan STAPLETON 5. Jonathan WRIGHT
6. Wade GRAHAM 6. Kris KEATING
7. Chad TOWNSEND 17. Trent HODKINSON
8. Kade SNOWDEN 8. Aiden TOLMAN
9. John MORRIS 9. Josh REYNOLDS
10. Luke DOUGLAS 10. Sam KASIANO
11. Jeremy SMITH 11. Frank PRITCHARD
12. Jayson BUKUYA 12. Andrew RYAN (c)
13. Paul GALLEN (c) 13. Dene HALATAU
14. Anthony TUPOU 14. Greg EASTWOOD
15. Sam TAGATAESE 19. Trent CUTLER
18. Josh CORDOBA 20. Mickey PAEA
19. Paul AITON 21. David STAGG
Ben Barba, Steve Turner, Dene Halatau tries, Turner 3 goals, Trent Hodkinson field goal
Sam Tagataese, Nathan Gardner tries, Nathan Stapleton 2 goals
Match Highlights – Courtesy of Youtube – CLICK HERE