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2014 NRL Preview: Canterbury Bulldogs

Canterbury Bulldogs Stats

2013 Record: 13 wins from 24 premiership games (6th placed)
5-year record: 70 wins from 120 premiership games (58% win record)

Player Movements

Arrivals: Reni Maitua, Chase Stanley, Pat O’Hanlon, Kayne Brennan

Departures: Ben Barba, Dene Halatau, Steve Turner, Martin Taupau, Kris Keatings, Paul Carter, Joe Romelo

Coach: Des Hasler

Fixtures to start and end 2014

First five fixtures: Broncos (H), Sharks (H), Panthers (A), Storm (H), Roosters (A)
Final five fixtures: Broncos (A), Eels (A), Tigers (H), Rabbitohs (H), Titans (A)

The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs enter 2014 minus one of the game’s superstars in Ben Barba and with limited movement on the recruitment front it will be interesting to see how Des Hasler’s men fare this season.

Barba’s exit leaves a significant hole at fullback, and they have Josh Morris, Sam Perrett and Krisnan Inu that can play fullback but none boast the skills of the fleet-footed Barba. They have signed Damien Cook from the Dragons, and he starred at fullback for the Illawarra Cutters during the latter half of the 2013 VB NSW Cup season. Cook has great pace and awareness and can also play on the wing and at hooker as a back up to skipper Michael Ennis. Chase Stanley has also made the move from the Dragons to the Bulldogs but I’m not sure about this signing. He played pretty much every game last year at centre yet failed to make much of an impact at all. He rarely broke the line and only scored a handful of tries. I think he will play a lot of NSW Cup this year.
They have a solid forward pack featuring the likes of Frank Pritchard, Sam Kasiano,  Tony Williams, the twins, Aiden Tolman and James Graham and some good youngsters in Josh Jackson and David Klemmer. Overall they have a good side but it lacks a genuine match winner, someone who can rip a game apart like Ben Barba did so often in 2012. Morris is one of the best centres, but Inu remains inconsistent and Perrett is reliable, but unspectacular. Compare that to the Roosters who boast Michael Jennings, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Daniel Topou, Shaun Kenny-Dowell and Anthony Minichiello and you can see why they might struggle this year. Stanley might come alive and dominate but he needs to dramatically alter his game. He has the size and speed to be a great centre but lacks involvement and initiative to go looking for the ball.
Overall I see the Bulldogs remaining competitive most weeks but the loss of Barba is massive and they haven’t really replaced him with anyone which will hurt them in tight games. But if Hasler can get Stanley firing and Williams playing to his potential the Bulldogs could surprise a few teams.

University of Wollongong alumni and aspiring journalist.

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