New coach, new players, big upheaval; it’s all happening at the Canterbury Bulldogs.
What does that mean for the club, though, who are looking to bounce back after a disappointing season? Are they ready to mount an assault for the premiership? Are the recruits the right ones to guide them forward?
The only way is up for the Bulldogs but whether they are good enough to take themselves towards higher honours remains to be seen.
A new coach can often take time to shape the side as he sees fit but just how long can Bulldogs fans hold out, hoping that they will be able to perform consistently?
The Foran Teller
Even Bulldogs fans themselves will tell you, the concern is there regarding new halves recruit Kieran Foran. A tremendous player when he is playing well, in season’s past, Foran’s form has been inconsistent, to say the least; often plagued by either injury or a lack of application required.
Looking back on his Manly days, things seemed almost effortless for the Kiwi international but since his departure, the journey in the NRL has been anything but smooth. Now at his fourth club overall and third in three years, it could be seen as a make-or-break year for Foran. A year whereby form and consistency are required if he is to remain in the echelon of elite NRL halves.
Perhaps not working in his favour, however, is that his halves partner for 2018 is yet to be determined. With a slated move to fullback for Moses Mbye on the cards, the halves options are left rather thin.
Signing Newcastle Knights half Jack Cogger for 2019 offers some relief but having played little first-grade footy, should his early release be granted, is he ready for that regular action?
Other options such as Matt Frawley loom but after somewhat of an inconsistent introduction into first-grade both off the bench and starting, Bulldogs fans have gone a bit cold on him.
Their only other realistic option is Josh Cleeland, a player that Bulldogs fans rate highly but his opportunity never seem to arrive.
The Principle of Moses
When Moses Mbye burst onto the scene, the tension in the air was palpable. A young, gifted and versatile player, Bulldogs fans were looking forward to seeing his development into a reliable, consistent half.
Unfortunately, that did not happen and despite some shades of his ability shining through, his overall form in the last few seasons has not been enough to convince fans that he is the man to partner new recruit Foran in the halves.
Fast-forward to new-thinking, a new coach and a new style, and Mbye is suddenly the favourite to play fullback.
Today’s style of fullback possesses smooth, silky ball skills and Mbye’s time in the halves is set to help him settle in the role for that reason.
Making the shift to an unfamiliar position is never an easy move but the good players make said shift seem effortless. Bulldogs fans will be hoping that Mbye can make it seamless as he chimes in from the back with his swift ball movement like all good fullbacks do in the modern game.
The Brothers of Destruction
It looks good at the start, it feels good at the start but can it produce the goods when the season proper begins?
If you have been living under a rock for some reason ahead of the 2018 NRL season, we are, of course, referring to Aaron Woods and David Klemmer.
In their own rights, both are reliable, hard-working and hard-running props known for producing big metres but just how prepared are they to play alongside each other? Can their individual form culminate into some collective form or will one shine as the other falters?
Woods was brought in as a replacement for the departed James Graham, has been criticised in the past for not producing enough but with a new club and a chance to impress new coach Dean Pay, Bulldogs fans are expecting big things from their Wests Tigers recruit.
As for the other half of the newfound bromance, David Klemmer has always been a favourite for the Bulldogs faithful since he first made an appearance in first-grade. Regarded as an overly aggressive and at times ‘grubby’ player by rival fans, Bulldogs fans love him and so they should! Particularly given his relative consistency, his hard-running and his positive relationship off the field with the fans.
Together, they will form a huge part of the Bulldogs success in 2018, primarily with their go-forward and getting over the advantage line. Coming off last year where the Bulldogs forward pack struggled somewhat at times, the addition of Woods has all involved hoping that he can push the club’s forward pack towards a potential finals berth.
Gains and Losses
2018 Gains: Clay Priest (Canberra Raiders), Fa’amanu Brown (Cronulla Sharks), Kieran Foran & Ofahiki Ogden (both New Zealand Warriors), Jeremy Marshall-King & Aaron Woods (both Wests Tigers), Mason Cerruto & Jarred Anderson.
2018 Losses: Brad Abbey, Craig Garvey, James Graham, Sam Kasiano, Adam Keighran, Richie Kennar, Brenko Lee, Tyrone Phillips & Josh Reynolds
Player to Watch
Fresh off the back of a stellar run of performances at the Rugby League World Cup for Papua New Guinea, Bulldogs fans will be hopeful that an opportunity for back-rower Rhyse Martin is not too far away.
Impressing in the NSW Cup or Intrust Super Premiership last season, his performances for PNG capped off an impressive year for the hard-running edge forward. With nifty feet, quick acceleration for a big man and a golden goal-kicking boot for good measure, his selection would certainly be warranted and it would put a smile on the faces of many Bulldogs fans.
Although the Bulldogs forward pack is somewhat jam-packed, an opportunity should arise for Martin at some point in the season. With a new coach on board who is likely to start things off with a clean slate with the players, an impressive pre-season might just be the push that Martin needs to become a first-grade regular.
Predicted 2018 line-up
Here is our predicted line-up for the Bulldogs in 2018:
- Moses Mbye
- Brett Morris
- William Hopoate
- Josh Morris
- Marcelo Montoya
- Josh Cleeland
- Kieran Foran
- Aiden Tolman
- Michael Lichaa
- Aaron Woods
- Josh Jackson
- Adam Elliott
- David Klemmer
14. Fa’amanu Brown
15. Danny Fualalo
16. Raymond Faitala-Mariner
17. Rhyse Martin
Coach: Dean Pay.