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Two of Sydney's proudest clubs - Canterbury-Bankstown and St George Illawarra - will face off on the lands of the Dharug, Eora and Bediagal Peoples during the league's annual Indigenous Round on Sunday afternoon.
Approaching the midpoint of the season with just two wins to languish in last position on the premiership ladder, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will be hoping a return to Belmore brings about a change in fortune.
Rallying from a heavy halftime deficit only to go down to the Tigers 36-22 at Leichardt Oval last Friday, the blue and whites have fared poorly since returning to their spiritual home in 2015 with two wins from nine appearances at the venue.
Boosted by the return of Josh Addo-Carr in a backline reshuffle that sees Jacob Kiraz preferred ahead of Jayden Okunbor, Corey Waddell replaces Joe Stimson in the forward pack, while Kyle Flanagan will play his 50th game in the NRL.
Sitting on the precipice of the top eight with the worst for-and-against differential of the four teams locked on ten competition points, the St George Illawarra Dragons will be looking to mark their first appearance at Belmore as a joint venture with a win.
Getting the better of the Warriors 24-18 in a rain-affected clash at Kogarah prior to the polls closing last Saturday, the joint venture has edged the Bulldogs in five of their past eight meetings over the past four years.
Welcoming back Andrew McCullough after a fortnight out of action with a thumb injury, coach Anthony Griffin has opted to start Moses Mbye at hooker with McCullough taking the place of Jayden Sullivan as the interchange utility.
Set to wear commemorative jerseys designed by First Nations artists Pam Brandy Hall (Bundjalung) and Joanne Niki (Torres Strait) respectively, both teams have struggled historically in Indigenous Round with the Bulldogs last prevailing in 2018 and the Dragons dating back even further in 2016.
Last meeting: Round 14 2021 - Bulldogs 28 Dragons 6
Who to watch: Making a welcome return after missing last week through illness, few players in the league will be out to make a statement during Indigenous Round more than Josh Addo-Carr. Descending from the Gunggandji, Wiradjuri and Gadigal Peoples, the man affectionately known as "The Foxx" has provided the Bulldogs with much-needed glimmers of hope in a season that has left supporters with little to celebrate. Scoring six tries in his past five appearances following a slow start to the season, Addo-Carr has enjoyed a memorable strike rate against the Dragons with eight tries, including back-to-back hat-tricks, in three previous meetings.
Returning to the second-row after a brief stint in the number six jersey, Jack Bird will be out to cap his newly inked deal with a win. Knocking back rival offers to remain with the Red V until the end of 2024, the Yuin man has relished a near injury-free run at the Dragons, after managing just 34 appearances in the four years following the Sharks maiden premiership victory. Considered a long shot of earning a place in Brad Fittler's Origin squad despite a shortage of edge forwards, a strong shoring could see Bird back in Blue for the first time in five years.
The favourite: While the Dragons have produced some of their worst performances of recent years against the Bulldogs, the stability of the Red V is expected to be too strong on Sunday afternoon.
My tip: A change of government took place 26 years ago when both St George and Illawarra last appeared at Belmore. The Bulldogs haven't cracked 26 points in a match all year, while the Dragons have done so only once. No more than 26 players can be on the field at any time. I don't know where this bit is going but I've committed… Dragons by 26.