When Kevin Moore was officially appointed as Bulldogs head coach to replace his brother-in-law Steve Folkes at the helm of the Bulldogs in April, he wasn’t able to immediately celebrate the news with his wife and children, who were holidaying in Disneyland. So his mentor – and another brother-in-law, Chris Anderson, took him to dinner to mark the occasion.
As Moore took his seat at the Narrabeen Sands Hotel, Anderson emerged, camera in hand, and snapped a quick photo.
“What are you doing?” a bemused Moore inquired.
“I’m taking the before shot,” Anderson replied. “I’ll take the after one after you’ve been in the job for a couple of years. Let’s see what you look like then!”
No team will look more different than the Bulldogs next year. New staff. New players. But most importantly, a new coach.
In a press release, the Bulldogs acknowledged that the changes to the playing, coaching and administration staff were “perhaps the biggest shake-up in the club’s history”. And the man to head it all is Moore.
Seemingly, it’s the job he was destined to take. The Bulldogs have long been known as “the family club”, thanks largely to the influence of Moore’s father, the late, great Peter “Bullfrog” Moore. And the legacy continued when Kevin Moore officially began head coaching duties during the week.
On the surface of it, the values the family club have been built upon have been eroded. There have been dramas on and off the field. From the salary cap to Sonny Bill, the past few years have been tumultuous. Then there was this year’s wooden spoon.
Moore, however, believes the traditional Bulldogs traits endure.
“I don’t think we’ve lost it as such,” he says of the family club tag. “The club has been through a number of things off field and a fair bit of turmoil over the last five or six years.
“Maybe the perception from outside is that maybe that has been lost, but certainly the philosophy of the club and the environment that I want to create is something I’ve learned over a long period of time.
“In house, we’re still pretty much the same club. We’ve had some turmoil and I think we need a bit of stability in the future.”
The Bulldogs had no doubt Moore was the man for the job. When it was announced Folkes would not be continuing next season, the likes of Daniel Anderson, Mick Potter and Stephen Kearney were bandied about as potential replacements. None were even interviewed.
He said there were “extenuating” circumstances in last season’s debacle and would not hold previous performances against any of his players. But he concedes much more will be expected from a squad that will be bolstered by Brett Kimmorley, Ben Hannant, Michael Ennis, Josh Morris and Yileen Gordon.
“It’s important that everyone around the club draws a line in the sand,” he said. “It happened, but we’ve got to move on.
“Luckily for me, the players we had last season, while they may not have individually been in the best of form, their attitude was good and they worked hard. The togetherness of the club was good, even in a tough period. There was no bitching, no blame thrown amongst each other. To me, that’s important.”
Anderson has been an influence, as have a host of other coaches and players, from Warren Ryan to Folkes. But most of Moore’s values have been picked up at the dinner table.
“My parents have been a tremendous influence,” he said. “Mum and Dad are tremendous people and well respected.
“With Dad being heavily involved in the club, he took an interest in me, not just from a playing point of view but also in getting into coaching.
“He’d be pleased I got an opportunity. His influence, as a father and CEO when I was playing at the club – he was very strong on the fact you had to earn the right to get an opportunity.
“I think he could see that I had success all the way up through the grades and would like to think I’ve earned this opportunity. He’d be very proud and very supportive.”
One thing the Bulldogs do better than anyone else is bunker down. When the losses pile up and the media is banging at the door, that’s when they’re at their strongest.
The siege mentality is unlikely to change on Moore’s watch.
“That’s a good quality,” he said.
“If the club has tough times, it’s important you do pull together. That’s a great character for any organisation to have.
“How people perceive that from the outside is up to them. From my point of view, if you’re facing tough times, a period of losses, it’s a great quality and great character to have. If we do that, we’re likely to come out the other end a much stronger club.”
While he doesn’t make any outlandish predictions about what the Bulldogs can achieve next season, a return to the finals is certainly on Moore’s radar.
“At the start of each season each club would realistically believe they are a chance to make the finals,” he said. “We’re no different.”
What will be different is the photo Anderson takes in two years’ time. Moore hopes he will be smiling.