There was plenty to like about the Bulldogs finish to 2018 in Dean Pay’s first season as head coach.
2018 Club Record
Competition Points: 18 (12th placed)
2018 Player Achievements
Canterbury Bulldogs Player of the Year: David Klemmer
Most Tries: Brett Morris (9)
Most Points: Rhyse Martin (88)
In what was always going to be a rebuilding year for new coach Dean Pay, the Bulldogs had a not-so-desirable year from the outside looking in. But delve a bit deeper and fans will be impressed.
Big name recruit Kieran Foran was among the team’s best in the opening rounds, playing direct and giving leadership in the halves – something that has been lacking for some time.
But then came the string of injuries, the departure of Aaron Woods and Moses Mbye, the well publicised salary cap dramas and lots of tough losses.
However one thing you could never fault – and Pay made a point of mentioning it at almost every post-match press conference – was the effort and heart shown by the players.
There were plenty of downs, but many ups. Lachlan Lewis and Rhyse Martin announced themselves as two of the game’s premier young guns. Not since Hazem El Masri has the game seen a player who can strike a goal so sweetly.
And with Lewis, the nephew of king Wally, a prince of Belmore was crowned. His 1 per cent efforts and crunching defence remind me of a young Jonathan Thurston. A player always perceived as small, but always in the battle right until the end.
With the emergence of Lewis, Martin, powerhouse forward Ofahiki Ogden and winger Reimis Smith – not to mention boom centre Morgan Harper and winger/second rower Jayden Okunbor nipping at the heels of a first grade debut – coach Pay will have a wealth of experience, youth and talent at his disposal in season 2019.
Their recruitment and retention has been excellent amid the mess left by previous management. Lynne Anderson, CEO Andrew Hill and co have turned what could have been a multi-year rebuild and years of suffering into a bright immediate future.
There is no doubt the talent the Bulldogs could field next year should catapult them closer to the top eight, but the fitness of Foran and the need for a class hooker could be their downfall to a successful 2019.
NothingButLeague Player of the Season
Without a doubt, David Klemmer stepped up to the plate and was a stand out for the blue and whites in 2018. In a year with few shining lights, fans could always expect the best from big Klem.
His go forward was relentless and his leg drive after impact has become a trademark. He tried to introduce offloading to his game, but when push came to shove he rarely needed to.
And then there’s State of Origin. Klemmer was arguably the best forward of the series. His job as an impact player worked a charm and Queensland had no answer.
Back home at his club, the passionate big man spoke openly about his status as one of the senior members of the squad, leading by his actions both on and off the field. He did so by taking young debutants Ofahiki Ogden and Renouf To’omaga under his wing, among others yet to make their debut I’m sure.
His good character and love for the club are on par with his abilities as a footballer. Bulldogs fans can take solace in knowing this man is a die hard Bulldog moving forward towards what is surely a positive future given their finish to the season.
2019 GAINS AND LOSSES
Jack Cogger (Newcastle Knights, 2020), Christian Crichton (Penrith Panthers, 2021), Corey Harawira-Naera (Penrith Panthers, 2022), Nick Meaney (Newcastle Knights, 2021), Chris Smith (Sydney Roosters, 2020), Sauaso Sue (Wests Tigers, 2020)
Greg Eastwood (released), Asipeli Fine (released), Matt Frawley (released), Moses Mbye (Wests Tigers), Brett Morris (Sydney Roosters), Josh Morris (Cronulla Sharks), Clay Priest (released), Aaron Woods (Cronulla Sharks)