As the National Rugby League season draws closer, we look at how the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will go in 2020.
It was a case of déjà vu for the Bulldogs in 2019, with the club failing to fire early, struggling with a scrambled mess of a salary cap and with injuries to key players. They did, however, finish the season with some powerful performances that they will hope carries on to 2020. Now, after several years, their salary cap conundrum is behind them and they can focus on building towards a strong future.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Joe Stimson arrives from Melbourne with a huge wrap from master coach Craig Bellamy. The versatile forward can play anywhere in the back row, in the centres, and even five-eighth. Built strong and tough, Stimson will bring stability and grit to a pack that has failed to live up to their famous ‘Dogs of War’ tag.
In 2019, Stimson played twelve games for the Storm, mostly off the bench, and managed five tries. He also made 170 of 183 tackles and averaged almost 10 metres per run. If he can nail down the lock position he could be a smokey to play 80 minutes for Dean Pay and become an anchor in the back row that features captain Josh Jackson and New Zealand star Corey Harawira-Naera.
Michael Lichaa (released), Danny Fualalo (released), John Olive (released), Nu Brown (released).
It may be a somewhat cruel statement to make, but none of the players departing the Bulldogs would necessarily be viewed as key losses. Lichaa failed to live up to a huge reputation since arriving from the Sharks in 2015, overtaken in 2019 by Jeremy Marshall-King – a makeshift hooker who made a name for himself in the number nine.
Danny Fualalo put in admirable performances in the front row when he appeared, but was nothing more than a fill in, although he is unlucky not to be snapped up by an NRL team given he was anything but poor. John Olive and Nu Brown were both hampered by injury in their time with the club and were never able to take their chances with both hands.
TOP 30 SQUAD: Jake Averillo, Dean Britt, Jack Cogger, Christian Crichton, Adam Elliott, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Kieran Foran, Corey Harawira-Naera, Morgan Harper, Kerrod Holland, Will Hopoate, Josh Jackson, Sione Katoa, Lachlan Lewis, Jeremy Marshall-King, Nick Meaney, Marcelo Montoya, Dylan Napa, Ofahiki Ogden, Jayden Okunbor, Chris Smith, Reimis Smith, Joe Stimson, Sauaso Sue, Isaiah Tass, Aiden Tolman, Renouf To’omaga, Brandon Wakeham, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.
SPOTS AVAILABLE: one.
DEVELOPMENT SQUAD: Matthew Doorey, Tyrone Harding, Tuipulotu Katoa, James Roumanos, Sebastian Winters-Chang.
Parramatta (A), North Queensland (H), Wests Tigers (A), Cronulla-Sutherland (H), South Sydney (A).
WHAT TO EXPECT
An improvement. Despite injury again flooring star halfback Kieran Foran, Dean Pay has a respectable squad. When he took over, he made a point of developing the likes of Jack Cogger, Lachlan Lewis, Renouf To’omaga, Nick Meaney and so on. Those players now have more than a season’s (and a few off-seasons) experience and will be all the better for it.
Dylan Napa had a disruptive start to his Bulldogs career in 2019 but is raring to go. With the experience of a genuine stars at the back in Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, and the forwards in captain Josh Jackson, the addition of Stimson in the back row, experienced international hooker Sione Katoa, and a host of young talent, they will be looking to get off to a flying start and build consistency.
Top Tryscorer – Nick Meaney.
Top Pointscorer – Nick Meaney.
Club Player of the Year – Will Hopoate.
WHERE WILL THE CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS FINISH?
Will the Bulldogs win the competition? No, probably not. Can they make the top eight? Absolutely. They will improve on 2019 and finish twelfth or above, but the big year for the club will be 2021. This is when the rebuild really kicks into gear. They expect to make some astute signings, which have already begun with Luke Thompson. They will add to their roster that already has a great mix of youth, experience, and a sprinkle of stars.