Michael Ennis’ notorious niggling tactics dominated talk after the opening weekend of the finals, thanks to his controversial treatment of opposing hooker and captain Cameron Smith – viewed as untouchable in some quarters – in Canterbury’s 28-4 upset of Melbourne.
The veteran rake has long been labelled the NRL’s biggest ‘grub’ – but there’s no question his ability to get under the opposition’s skin has worked to the Bulldogs’ benefit more often than not.
Before the semi-final, Channel Nine ran this compilation of Ennis at his most combative and irritating, with some of the code’s biggest stars, less-heralded opponents and referees all in the firing line.
‘Ennis the Menace’ was right in the thick of it again in the nail-biting semi-final defeat of Manly, relentlessly attempting to get the Sea Eagles to take the bait.
But it was another Ennis moment that caught the eye of the Commentary Box Sports team.
After his goal-line shocker with 10 to go that almost cost the Bulldogs victory, several Manly players took the opportunity to rub Ennis’ nose in it – a tactic he has no doubt employed himself on countless occasions.
Rather than react in characteristic fashion after being sledged and jostled, however, Ennis took it on the chin, proving he just as willing to receive it as he is to dish it out.
An out-and-out nice guy off the paddock, Ennis – love him or hate him – is one of the NRL’s most intriguing competitors and characters. Rugby league needs its villains and Ennis is quite content to play the part.
He will be a tremendous asset to rebuilding Cronulla next year, while a fairytale farewell premiership at the helm of the Bulldogs is shaping as a distinct possibility.