Ball control key to Dogs hopes: Maitua - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Ball control key to Dogs hopes: Maitua

By Todd Balym and Adrian Proszenko 20/09/2006 06:43:01 PM Comments (0)

Bulldogs utility Reni Maitua said his side won't beat Brisbane in their NRL preliminary final on Friday unless they improve their ball handling.

Brisbane has won both encounters with the Bulldogs this year, 25-6 in round 12 at Suncorp Stadium and 30-0 at Telstra Stadium five weeks ago.

In both losses the Bulldogs were guilty of poor ball protection - their 15 handling errors to eight in Sydney costing the club any hope of victory.

Their recent record with the ball hasn't been flash either with 17 handling errors in both the round 26 match against Penrith and the qualifying final against Canberra.

Both games were however played in atrocious conditions.

Maitua, who will return from a knee injury in the centres on Friday, said the Bulldogs must respect the ball or be on the end of a Brisbane hiding just like Newcastle (50-6) last week.

"The major factor in (Brisbane's weekend) win was their ball control, their completion rate," said Maitua.

"That's what we need to do to match them, just hold onto the ball.

"Defending against the Broncos, if you keep dropping the pill and give them too many sets, they're going to be hard to beat."

Prop Mark O'Meley echoed Maitua's thoughts and said it was important the Bulldogs didn't try to force things to happen, which leads to increased errors.

"Hold your composure, be patient, be prepared to be in an arm wrestle for 80 minutes," O'Meley said.

"The last game (30-0 loss), I still think the scoreboard didn't indicate how tough the game was.

"The first game, they really came out and stuck it to us, gave it to us, embarrassed us.

"So I'm sure we realise how important it is to be patient now and hold the ball and not try and play touch footy against them."

While the Dogs have been keeping a close eye on Brisbane, in particular St George Illawarra's win over them in the first week of the finals, Maitua said they had steered clear of resurrecting the round 24 video tape.

"We don't try to think about anything like that, it's important to stay positive and come semi-final time it's different to the last 26 rounds," he said.

"We won't bring that up at all."

Coach Steve Folkes too said it was important the Bulldogs move on from that disastrous night when they were not only thumped on the scoreboard but lost centre Willie Tonga (season) and prop Roy Asotasi to knee injuries.

Asotasi needs only to pass Thursday's fitness test to make his comeback off the bench on Friday.

"We haven't even mentioned the last game, so that's not in their thinking at the moment," Folkes said.

"Whatever happened in rounds one to 26 doesn't count for much in semi-finals."

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