Mind games start for NRL 'final' - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Mind games start for NRL 'final'

By Laine Clark 08/05/2003 06:01:02 PM Comments (0)

The mind games have started before Friday night's National Rugby League grand final that never was with Sydney Roosters skipper Brad Fittler suggesting contract talks may be distracting the Bulldogs.

Bulldogs chief executive Steve Mortimer suspended contract negotiations with several key players this week - including Brent Sherwin, Nigel Vagana, Luke Patten and Travis Norton - so they could concentrate on the much-hyped NRL round nine clash at Telstra Stadium.

And inspirational Roosters pivot Fittler said the talks may be haunting the Bulldogs, who have been out of sorts this season after their sensational on-field 2002 exploits.

"They've dropped a couple of games that you wouldn't think they would have dropped so maybe that has something to do with it," the former Australian skipper said.

The Bulldogs' much publicised salary cap rort ended their 2002 title hopes as the Roosters went on to clinch their first premiership since 1975.

That set the stage for their round nine clash which has been dubbed the NRL grand final that never was.

While the Roosters have picked up this season where they left off in 2002 - they are second with a 6-2 record - the Bulldogs (4-4) have found the going tough lately.

Apart from hot and cold form and never ending contract talks, the Bulldogs have also been hampered by a long injury list which recently added Willie Talau (out for two weeks with a knee injury), Mark O'Meley (month, broken hand) and Tony Grimaldi (month, knee).

The only good news for the Bulldogs was fullback Luke Patten receiving the green light after overcoming a back injury.

While tight-lipped coaches Ricky Stuart (Roosters) and Steve Folkes (Bulldogs) are loathe to admit it, the clash has all the hallmarks of a NRL season decider.

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