2014 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs season
The 2014 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs season was the 80th in the club's history. Coached by Des Hasler and co-captained by Michael Ennis and Frank Pritchard, they competed in the National Rugby League's 2014 Telstra Premiership. Finishing the regular season 7th (out of 16), the team reached the finals for the third consecutive year. They then went on to reach the 2014 NRL Grand final, in which they were defeated by the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
In the pre-season theBulldogs competed in the 2014 NRL Auckland Nines, the first ever staging of the nine-a-side knockout tournament.
The Bulldogs started the regular season with a narrow loss to the Brisbane Broncos before accounting for the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks in the second week of the competition. They would then go on to get beaten by the Penrith Panthers after the siren in round 3. Following this loss the Bulldogs went on a season high 7 game winning streak, during which they made history by becoming the only team to ever win 3 consecutive games by a single point, victories they earned over the Sydney Roosters, the Warriors and the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Due to the impressive form of the team, several players were called up to play State Of Origin for New South Wales, which triggered a mid-season slump, during which the Bulldogs did not register a win for over a month. The team managed to regain some form towards the end of the origin period, claiming victories over the Canberra Raiders in round 16 and heavy favourites Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in round 17. The Bulldogs played arguably their best defensive game of the year in round 18, when they kept the Melbourne Storm to just 4 points and ran out winners by 2.
What followed was an unpredictable collapse over the following four matches. Injuries and suspensions played havoc during the end of the regular season and after having such good defence all year, the bulldogs let in 123 points in just four games against the Wests Tigers, the North Queensland Cowboys, the Penrith Panthers and the Brisbane Broncos, only managing 56 in return. The Bulldogs next win came in round 23 when they accounted for the Parramatta Eels by 2 points. In round 24 the Bulldogs were able to reverse the result against the Tigers, winning 30-10 and all but assuring themselves a place in the finals.
The final 2 rounds of the regular season came as losses to the South Sydney Rabbitohs, who ran away victors after trailing the Bulldogs for most of the match, and the Gold Coast Titans, who came back from a 18-0 half time deficit to win 19-18 in golden point extra time.
The Bulldogs finished the regular season in Seventh place.
In week one of the finals the Bulldogs travelled to Melbourne to face the Melbourne Storm in an elimination final. For the second time in one year the Bulldogs were able to account for the Storm in their own backyard. The Bulldogs started with a bang and ran up a 24-0 half time lead, the storm managed to stop the flow of points in the second half, but were ultimately eliminated, losing 28-4.
The following week they faced the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in a semi-final that went into golden point extra time. In a fiery affair that saw one player from each team spend 10 minutes in the sin bin at different times of the game, the Bulldogs raced out to an early 16-0 lead before conceding a try on halftime, leaving the half time score at 16-6. In the second half Manly managed to draw level at 16-16 and looked to have the momentum to win the game. With less than 10 minutes remaining in normal time, Trent Hodkinson kicked a field goal to give the Bulldogs a 17-16 lead. However Manly hit back with a field goal of their own and the scores were locked at 17-17 after 80 minutes. Each team had one shot at field goal in the opening minutes of extra time with no success, until 4 minutes in Hodkinson nailed his second field goal of the night to win the match 18-17, eliminating Manly and securing a Preliminary Final against the Penrith Panthers.
In week three of the finals the Bulldogs and the Panthers met in a Grand Final qualifier to see who would face the South Sydney Rabbitohs the following week. The Bulldogs entered the game as favourites and scored twice in the opening half an hour to set up an early 12-0 lead. The Panthers hit back on half time and the teams headed into the break at 12-6. Moments before half time Michael Ennis the Bulldogs on field captain suffered what was later found out to be a double fracture in his foot and he did not return in the second half. With the captain and hooker off the field the Bulldog's attack was hampered in the second half, but their desperation in defence remained. Defying the odds the Bulldogs, without the direction of their captain, were next to score in the 57th minute to extend their lead to 18-6. The Panthers fought bravely and were able to score in the 72nd minute, reducing the deficit to one converted try. The game went down to the wire with the Bulldogs penalised as the full-time siren sounded, handing Penrith one final opportunity to level the scores. The play did not work however and in eerily similar circumstances to 2004 the Bulldogs defeated the Panthers without the services of their captain in the second half to secure a grand final birth.
|Date and Time||Venue||Crowd|
|ELIM FINAL||Melbourne Storm||4-28||Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs||Sun 14 Sep 2014, 4:10pm AEST||AAMI Stadium||19,230|
|SEMI FINAL||Manly Warringah Sea Eagles||17-18||Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs||Sat 20 Sep 2014, 7:45pm AEST||Sydney Football Stadium||28,186|
|PRELIM FINAL||Penrith Panthers||12-18||Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs||Sat 27 Sep 2014, 7:55pm AEST||ANZ Stadium||46,168|
|GRAND FINAL||South Sydney Rabbitohs||30-6||Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs||Sun 5 Oct 2014, 7:20pm AEDT||ANZ Stadium||83,833|