Position: Runners Up
Record: (W-L-D-) 16-12-0
Top Pointscorer: Trent Hodkinson (160)
Top Tryscorer: Tim Lafai (14)
Like many of the top teams in 2014, there were times when the Bulldogs were absolutely on fire and you thought this would be their year. At other times they were awful and their 7th-placed finish was a fair result after an inconsistent regular season saw them win 13 games, but lose 11. Two one-point wins in rounds six and seven showed that they could find ways to win, but on occasions they were on the end of a thrashing such as their 32-12 hammering at the hands of the Roosters in round 11 and a 32-10 loss to the Sea Eagles just two weeks later. In the finals, their week one 28-4 win over the might of the Storm gave them some momentum and their thrilling 18-17 extra-time win over the Sea Eagles had them heading into the Preliminary Final against an in-form Panthers with plenty of confidence. An 18-12 victory put them into their second Grand Final in 3 years, but that win came at a cost with skipper Michael Ennis succumbing to a broken foot. In the big one, they looked lethargic in attack, but their defence kept them in the contest, until a flurry of late points blew the scoreline out to 30-6.
The form of Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds leading up to the State of Origin Series was fantastic and together they orchestrated a series win for NSW, who claimed the shield for the first time since 2005. James Graham continued to show why he is the best English forward in the world, and Josh Jackson took another step towards representative honours with a great year. Tim Lafai went from ok to awesome in 2014 and was a constant threat on the Bulldogs’ right side, while young winger Corey Thompson was a sensation on the flanks, finishing with 9 tries.
Injuries restricted Sam Kasiano and Frank Pritchard to just 14 games and 6 games respectively, forcing much of the responsibility of go-forward on the shoulders of Graham, Tolman and Jackson. Chase Stanley showed promise but a broken arm restricted him to just 9 games. The jubilant NSW halves pairing of Hodkinson and Reynolds struggled post State of Origin and never recovered their great early season form. Reynolds struggled with injury and suspension for the back half of the season and Hodkinson struggled with an ongoing knee injury.
Their skipper, Ennis, is off to the Sharks, and enigmatic utility Krisnan Inu is heading to French rugby. The reliable, if unspectacular Mitch Brown is following Ennis to the Sharks, while youngsters Lachlan Burr and John Sila are going elsewhere, seeking more first-grade opportunities. Michael Lichaa is a straight swap for Ennis, and they have also added Curtis Rona from the Cowboys and injury-prone centre Jacob Loko from the Eels. Recently there has been speculation Dragons flyer Brett Morris will head to the Bulldogs in 2015 to play alongside twin brother Josh, and become the clubs’ new fullback but to date nothing has eventuated. With better luck with injuries next year, the Bulldogs will again be amongst the top teams. Hodkinson and Reynolds will be better prepared to deal with post Origin syndrome and should be able to maintain their form over the course of the season.