Well, here we are, part 2 of my season previews. This time, it’s the Canterbury Bulldogs who will be put under the microscope, as they brace themselves for the upcoming season.
As the old adage goes, ‘so close, yet so far’. That’s exactly what the Bulldogs experienced in 2012, making it all the way to the grand final under new coach Des Hasler, before losing the decider to a rampant Melbourne Storm outfit.
Some might say that it means a decline of sorts as they look to pick up the pieces, but for others, it may only be the beginning of a successful string of seasons for the Bulldogs, as they look to go that one step further and see their name on the 2013 NRL Premiership trophy.
With that grand final defeat either fresh in their minds to use as motivation for 2013, or at the back of their minds as to focus on the task at hand, there is no denying that across the board, the Bulldogs are a team that are expected to be in or around the top teams in the competition, given the players they have at their disposal.
With their team largely similar to the one that helped them to the grand final last year, the expectation on the players will be even greater, as they look to do the same again this year – with the help of the man known as T-Rex, Tony Williams.
His first game for the Bulldogs in their recent trial had fans excited at what he can potentially do for the club, as he looks to link up with the likes of Pritchard and Eastwood in the back-row to not only cement his spot in the side, but get the monkeys off his back following a rather inconsistent year at Manly last season.
With T-Rex often criticised at times for his lack of intensity and laziness on the field sometimes, is this something that Bulldogs coach Des Hasler can rectify, turning Williams into the powerhouse back-rower we know he can be, or will we see another inconsistent season from the new Bulldog?
One player who won’t need any invitation to put on a show, however, is that of Ben Barba. As we all saw in 2012, words such as electrifying, scintillating and captivating describe the live-wire Bulldogs fullback, but the question remains – can he emulate his splendid 2012 season, backing it up with an equally impressive 2013?
It’s not often that players dominate games in consecutive seasons, and with opposition teams now likely to implement numerous strategies to nullify the effects of Barba in open play and from the back, he too will have to implement new ways to get around opposition defences and score.
With his talents and freakish ability, however, you wouldn’t put it past him to emulate his 2012 form, or at least come close to it.
One problem the Bulldogs may face, however, is that they go into the 2013 season without James Graham, who was of course suspended for quite some time for his biting incident in the 2012 grand final, involving Billy Slater.
With doubt over whether Sam Kasiano will start the season also, some may feel that in regards to their props, the Bulldogs will go in a bit underdone and lack the venom and intensity their prop rotation showed last year.
With that, the likes of Aiden Tolman who has been a consistent battler for the Dogs over the last couple of seasons, will have to step up once more, with the club also relying on young players in Martin Taupau and David Klemmer to fill that void, until such time Graham returns.
With that spot and opportunity up for grabs, one of the talented young players will get it, but will they be able to offer the same impact of Kasiano and/or Graham, or will we see a different approach implemented by Des Hasler to cope with the loss of Graham and potentially Kasiano.
The one other doubt that some people have concerns about, is their halves, particularly that of the halfback role. With Kris Keating copping a lot of flak at times, but playing well at other times, the question remains – will he retain his spot as halfback in the side, or can Trent Hodkinson assume the role once more, following a tough 2012 season due to injury.
Regardless of who gets the nod, the pressure will be on them, as they look to guide the Bulldogs forward once more and propel them towards potential premiership glory.
All in all, with the Bulldogs retaining much of the same side that saw them make it to the grand final in 2012, as well as the addition of Tony Williams to their squad, you would presume that it would take a madman to suggest they won’t make the finals in 2013, as they seek the ultimate glory – the NRL premiership.
Do you see the Bulldogs making the top 8?
1. Ben Barba
2. Sam Perrett
3. Krisnan Inu
4. Josh Morris
5. Steve Turner
6. Josh Reynolds
7. Kris Keating
8. Sam Kasiano
9. Michael Ennis
10. Aiden Tolman
11. Frank Pritchard
12. Tony Williams
13. Josh Jackson
14. Dale Finucane
15. Martin Taupau
16. Dene Halatau
17. Greg Eastwood