The Bulldogs' top four hopes have suffered a setback with Mark O'Meley ruled out of tomorrow night's crunch NRL match against North Queensland in Townsville due to a quadricep muscle strain.
The injury has opened the door for Willie Mason to move from the bench to the starting line-up in his first match back since dislocating his wrist six weeks ago. Mason says O'Meley could possibly have played but medical staff have ruled him out as a precautionary measure ahead of the finals.
The Bulldogs left for Townsville this morning knowing they needed a win to cement their spot in the finals. A win over the Cowboys could see them finish as high as fourth while a loss could send them tumbling to eighth and a meeting with Melbourne in the first round of the finals.
It is also possible for the Bulldogs to drop out of the top eight altogether. For that to happen the Bulldogs would have to suffer a heavy loss to the Cowboys and have Brisbane and Souths both win and Wests Tigers run up a cricket score in beating Newcastle tomorrow night.