Bulldogs put NRL target on Sharks' Fifita

Matt Encarnacion

If the Dogs of War were to erupt any time soon, now would be the perfect time to do so.

For if Canterbury are any chance of stopping the game's form player in Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita on Sunday, then Bulldogs pair Aaron Woods and David Klemmer need to do all the barking.

Fifita has almost single-handedly dragged the injury-hit Sharks back into the top eight with a stunning stretch of form during their four-game winning streak, including last week's heroic 80-minute effort.

His purple patch has seen him shoot to the top of the Dally M leaderboard after the opening 10 rounds, and he even remains on the NSW State of Origin radar despite pledging his allegiance to Tonga.

"He's at the top of his game at the moment so he's a real threat. He's playing some fantastic footy for them. He's probably their focal point of what they do," Bulldogs coach Dean Pay said of Fifita.

"He's a massive threat for us."

Klemmer and Fifita were caught in a NSW selection storm following last year's series-deciding loss to Queensland, when it was reported Fifita demanded he stay in the run-on side.

It creates the perfect backdrop for a mouth-watering between the three enforcers, with Woods and Klemmer the incumbent front-row pairing for the Kangaroos.

Sharks coach Shane Flanagan admitted their game plan centred on stopping the big Bulldogs duo.

"We need to make sure that we're meeting them on that advantage line. They've got some dangerous players but we need to start with their two front-rowers," Flanagan said.

Pay also said it was imperative his team continue the momentum gained from last week's breakthrough win over Parramatta, with nine of their final 13 fixtures at ANZ Stadium or Belmore Oval.

Their only trip out of Sydney is to Newcastle in round 16.

"Hopefully we can get another couple of wins before we get into the bye and then we've got a run home. We've got some home games on the way home," Pay said.

"So starting with this week, it's really important that we try and get the two points."

The eighth-placed Sharks get skipper Paul Gallen back from a knee injury, as well as Jayson Bukuya (illness), while Josh Dugan (foot) is also a chance of an early return.

For the 13th-placed Bulldogs, Clay Priest replaces an injured Danny Fualalo (ankle).

STATS THAT MATTER

* The Sharks are looking to win four straight against Canterbury for the first time in their history, with all three wins coming by two points or less.

* Canterbury's 2.3 tries per game is the lowest return in the NRL, with Cronulla's 2.6 per game not far ahead.

* Valentine Holmes' 323m effort last week was the highest in a match since Akuila Uate's 335 in 2011.