Few Rugby League rivalries are as bitter and entail as much history as the competition between Parramatta and Canterbury. From the clubs’ succession of finals battles as they claimed four premierships apiece during the 1980s, to the big-spending Eels’ pillaging of the Bulldogs’ playing ranks during the Super League upheaval, and their epic preliminary final showdowns in 1998 and 2009, there’s always something a little extra when these sides come together.
As we get set for another fascinating instalment of Bulldogs-Eels warfare on Friday night, Throwback Thursday looks at the Top 5 clashes between the clubs.
5. Bulldogs herald Ryan era with cliff-hanger victory (1984)
Warren Ryan took over as coach of Canterbury in 1984 and enjoyed a thrilling win in his first game in charge as the Bulldogs pipped three-time premiers Parramatta 18-16 in Round 1. The Eels had downed the Bulldogs twice during the ’83 finals, but Terry Lamb’s sideline conversion in the dying stages proved the difference in a seesawing clash. The clubs would face off in five finals matches and two deciders in the ensuing three seasons.
4. Hodkinson boots Bulldogs home in golden point (2011)
With both sides desperately trying to stay in the finals race, the archrivals produced an extra-time thriller in the latter stages of 2011 at a soggy Stadium Australia. The scores were locked 6-all after 50 minutes following Jarryd Hayne’s 80-metre intercept try, while Hayne broke the deadlock with a field goal five minutes from fulltime. But Bulldogs halfback Trent Hodkinson booted the leveller in the 78th minute, before scraping a 41-metre attempt over the bar with three minutes of golden point remaining.
3. Eels juggernaut powers to Grand Final after modern-day classic (2009)
Brutal, dramatic and close-fought, Parramatta’s 22-12 preliminary final defeat of Canterbury in front of a 74,549-strong crowd ranks among the NRL era’s finest finals contests. Again inspired by Jarryd Hayne, the Eels came from 12-6 down at halftime to complete an unbelievable charge to the Grand Final from eighth spot.
2. ‘Pricey’ and ‘The Crow’ retire in glory after try-less decider (1986)
Parramatta’s 4-2 eclipse of Canterbury is the only try-less Grand Final in premiership history, but also rates as one of the most absorbing and dramatic deciders ever. Bulldogs fullback Phil Sigsworth was sent off for a high tackle on Brett Kenny, Eels pivot Kenny had multiple tries disallowed, Terry Lamb missed with a late penalty that would have sent the match into extra-time and the decider finished with Canterbury pounding Parramatta’s try-line. Legendary Eels Ray Price and Michael Cronin retired after their fourth premiership success together – and the club’s last to date.
1. Bulldogs pull off greatest finals comeback of all time (1998)
Few finals matches have taken on the mythical status of the Bulldogs’ 32-20 defeat of Parramatta in the 1998 preliminary final. The Eels were Grand Final-bound at 18-2 with 11 minutes to go, but the Bulldogs stormed back with three late tries – the last famously converted from the sideline by Daryl Halligan to level the scores. Bulldogs half Craig Polla-Mounter’s 50-metre field goal attempt on the siren fell just under the cross-bar, but they powered home in extra-time to reach the decider despite finishing ninth at the end of the regular season. The Eels have been branded finals chokers ever since.