Last season placing: 6th
Consistently inconsistent was the way to describe the Bulldogs in 2017: perhaps it was best seen when their winning streak was snapped by a shellacking in North Queensland, from which they didn’t really recover – the slump at the back of the season finally coming to a head when they were knocked out by Penrith week one of the finals.
The absence of Will Hopoate on Sundays as well as injuries to key winger Brett Morris, as well as the loss of Josh Jackson and David Klemmer to State of Origin meant Canterbury struggled to get their best seventeen on the park week in week out. The exit in the first week led to pressure mounting on Des Hasler (though he’s a top four coach in the league and shouldn’t have that pressue), and has the eyes of the rumour mill firmly on the Kennel for any more unrest at the club – though given a strong 2017, there should not be any.
Sam Kasiano: the behemoth from Belmore has slimmed and trimmed for season 2017 and showcased it in the trial against the Storm, playing long on the edges and up the middle. He’s one of if not the best props in the league on his day with the skill of a halfback (Moses Mbye would do well to take note) to go along with the hulking frame – and he’s out to get your team.
Moses Mbye: the man who could do with Sam Kasiano’s clutch passing and soft hands had an inauspicious and probably disappointing 2016 for such a highly touted prospect – and is no doubt on tap to rectify it in 2017 playing hopefully with a freer offense and a fitter forward pack – if he can fire it’ll go a long way to Canterbury pushing for the title in 2017.
David Klemmer: the legend has it nobody wanted to be his contact training partner coming through juniors because he went so hard out then – so it’s no surprise to see the two metre behemoth getting a mention here. He runs with no regard for anyone’s safety and is always tough to get down, often laying the platform along with the rest of Canterbury’s big pack. 2016 was something of a career year for Klemmer, who looks to continue his great form through 2017.
Story of 2017
Des Hasler has promised a more free flowing offensive unit this year, though it is of utmost importance that the Bulldogs don’t try to be something they aren’t – they have a power game and would be wise to use it. But they also have a faster, fitter pack this year raring to go and do better than their inauspicious 2016. Balancing power and the likely improved touch game is integral to their success.
They’re always in and around the eight and will likely kick off their season with a win against Melbourne purely on the basis Des Hasler beats Craig Bellamy unless it’s a grand final – statistically over the last three years it’s a guarantee. Sadly enough there are fourteen other teams so the Bulldogs can’t wail on the Storm ever week – a finish at 5th or 6th seems likely if they are as slick and fit as they’re letting on.
Top try-scorer: Brett Morris
Top point-scorer: Kerrod Holland
Player of the year: Josh Jackson