The Sydney Roosters and the Canterbury Bulldogs have never really liked each other. In fact, the rivalry between the two clubs stretches back nearly 100 years to 1938, when the Bulldogs won their first ever Premiership against the then-named Eastern Suburbs. That was the second time they would meet on the last day of the season in just three years, with the Roosters returning the favour in 1940 with a 24-14 win. That three-year period set the scene for a rivalry has endured ever since, and will take centre stage this year on the 30th of April in a game in which the odds on this game suggest that the result in a Roosters win. This game is going to be very popular to bet on the Australian betting apps.
Following on from that 1940 Grand Final, it would be over 30 years before the two met on the big stage again, and when they did it was the Bulldogs winning their first Premiership in 38 years with a 18-4. In an eerie coincidence, the two sides once again met two years later in the Grand Final, and once again it was the Roosters turning the table on the side their cross-town rivals who had beaten them on the same day a couple of years earlier. Those four Grand Final matchups meant there was invariably plenty of juice between the two sides, and in the early stages of the 21st century, it reached perhaps its juiciest.
During that period, both sides were at the peak of their powers. In 2002 they were both among the Premiership fancies, but it was the Roosters who would end the season victorious after the Bulldogs were stripped of Premiership points for salary cap breaches over the couple of years prior. Unsurprisingly, that didn’t sit well with the Dogs or their fans. Unfortunately for them, however, they weren’t able to turn the tables in 2003, with the Roosters making their way into their second consecutive Grand Final with a 28-18 Preliminary Final win against the Bulldogs in front of a massive crowd at Aussie Stadium. During the regular season the next year, the Roosters furthered their ascendancy against their rival with a 35-0 win, but despite the lopsided nature of the game, a fight in the stands after the game added further fuel to the fire of the rivalry. And of course, as luck would have it, the two ended up meeting in the Grand Final that same year, the fifth time in history they had done so. In contrast to their earlier season clash, this was a tight, tough and tense battle, and it was the Bulldogs who ended up prevailing 16-13.
Over the past few years, things haven’t been quite as spicy, courtesy largely of the fact that the Bulldogs haven’t been at their best. The two sides haven’t met in a final since 2015, and with Canterbury far and away the worst side in the league last year the Roosters have unsurprisingly had the ascendancy of late. Despite that, however, their solitary matchup last year was decided by just six points, and with the Bulldogs on the improve it’s possible that the rivalry will begin to recapture some of its past glory.
This year, they meet for the first and only time on the 30th of April at Stadium Australia. Undoubtedly the Roosters will head in as favourites; they are one of the Premiership fancies, and while the Bulldogs have already demonstrated that they are far better than the side which won just three games last year, they are not at the level of the Roosters just yet. They have, however, shown an ability to compete with far better teams than they were able to last year, even at this early stage of the season. They beat the Cowboys in Round 1, which didn’t seem like much of a big deal but was somewhat validated when North Queensland put together two stunning performances over the next two weeks, while a one-point loss to the Sea Eagles was as gallant a defeat as you could ask for. Unfortunately it was followed up by an incredible 44-0 loss to the Storm, but inconsistency is par for the course for young, improving teams like the Bulldogs.
If that version of the Bulldogs which lost to the Storm shows up to this game, expect the Roosters to feast. After an injury-plagued 2021, they are ready to compete for a Premiership once again, and any side which fails to show up against them invariably faces a long night – particularly bottom eight sides like the Bulldogs. In contrast, if Canterbury can produce the best version of themselves, they are capable of causing the Roosters plenty of headaches. The Roosters will deservedly go into this one as favourites and should be too good, but the Bulldogs are capable of keeping it close, and beginning to fan the smouldering flames of this long-term rivalry in the process.