Record: 10 wins, 14 losses
Ladder Position: 11th
Player of the Year: Josh Jackson
It felt a little like “the year it was meant to be” for the Canterbury Bulldogs club which resulted in Des Hasler’s departure along with the cult-hero trio of Josh Reynolds, Sam Kasiano and James Graham.
Reynold’s last season at the club was frustrating as injury sidelined him at the back end of the season. However he scored both the first and last try in the Bulldogs campaign, with that round 26 try ending St George-Illawarra’s chances of making the final and handing North Queensland a fairy-tale run to Grand Final day.
The Bulldogs ended 2017 with three straight wins, including over Manly Sea Eagles on finals eve, which went some way to erasing a horrible four game losing streak mid-season that included a 38-0 drubbing at the hands of Penrith.
Hasler’s departure after missing finals for first time since 2004
Hasler’s tenure ended with a win percentage of 56.8%, just slightly higher than Kevin Moore’s 53% in his three seasons at Belmore. 2017 would be only the second time a Hasler-coached side had missed the finals, with his first season at Brookvale resulting in the Manly side running thirteenth.
While it was Hasler’s ability to prepare his side for a physical encounter that made him one of the most sought after coaches, sadly it was the inability to score points that cost him the head coach role. Canterbury were last in points scored in 2017 (360) leading to side being labelled “The Dogs of Bore”.
Football manager Andrew Farrar also left the club at season’s end.
Hopefully new head coach Dean Pay will be able to replicate the type of attacking prowess that helped Canberra Raiders be so successful in the past couple of seasons, where he was assistant coach.
Marcelo Montoya is gifted
When Marcelo Montoya scored on his debut in round 3 against New Zealand Warriors there was a feeling that the kid could play.
In his nineteen appearances for the Bulldogs, Montoya scored twelve times which resulted in becoming the top try scorer at the club for the season.
The good news is that Montoya along with his centre partner Brenko Lee are both 21 years old. These two could form one of the best combinations over the next few years as the Bulldogs find their path back to becoming “The Entertainers”.
Halves headache could be solved with Foran
The lack of creativity in the halves again plagued the Bulldogs in 2017.
Josh Reynolds played most of the season at five-eighth but his style was to take the defensive line on.
It was the excitement factor which was lacking in the halves combination which would continue to play on the mind of Des Hasler as his side’s season slipped away.
Maybe Keiran Foran’s arrival might solve some of the associated halves issues but will it be Mbye or Frawley who will play next to him?
Moses Mbye struggled at halfback and was switched to hooker after the Bulldogs “Great Escape” at Belmore against the Knights in round 18.
Matt Frawley made his debut against Brisbane in round 5 and immediately had an impact in a game affected by heavy rain at ANZ Stadium, but the Bulldogs style of play may have restricted his play-making ability.
Josh Jackson must be the next club captain
It was another outstanding season by Taree-born product Josh Jackson where he represented his state in all three State of Origin games and was announced as Canterbury’s player of 2017.
Whilst new coach Dean Pay may opt for Aidan Tolman or new recruit Aaron Woods to skipper the team, it’s hard to go past Jackson.
Jackson has been with the club since 2012 and bleeds blue. Dean Pay wants the Bulldogs to return to a “successful culture”. Jackson’s leadership on and off the field could well be the confidence fans need to get back onside with the club after a turbulent few seasons.
Successful culture breeds a winning culture. Jackson is the man for the job.
2018 GAINS AND LOSSES
Gains: Aaron Woods, Keiran Foran, Fa’amanu Brown
Losses: Josh Reynolds, Sam Kasiano, James Graham, Michael Lichaa, Craig Garvey, Tyrone Phillips