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Bulldogs Bound for Wooden Spoon in 2021

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NOTHING short of a miracle will lift the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs off the bottom of the table. The season is a write off.

The only take away for coach Trent Barrett will be the development of inexperienced players who get a taste of first grade, albeit in a wooden spoon side. 

What the team has dished up in the opening six weeks of the competition is a disgrace. They have a solid team with a sprinkle of rep players but many who aren’t at NRL level.

Corey Allen, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Nick Cotric, Will Hopoate, Kyle Flanagan, Dylan Napa, Josh Jackson and Sione Katoa have all severely underperformed considering the calibre of player they are.

There’s no point trying to decipher what the issues are. Most look like they simply don’t care. Hands on hips, no urgency, no passion, so respect for the jersey.

More than 10 players are expected to depart and 15 or so are off contract. There will be huge turnover of players in 2022. But that doesn’t fix the now.

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Jackson Topine debuting has been a great positive moving forward, as is the long minutes in the halves  for Jake Averillo (even though he’ll play centre or wing in 2022). 

Luke Thompson has been the club’s best since returning from suspension while moving Watene-Zelezniak to fullback and Allen to centre has been a positive move for both players.

Renouf Atoni has been excellent off the bench and should be retained, as has Ofa Ogden. That’s where the positives stop.

It’s hard to imagine a team in the NRL era worse than the wooden spoon Knights who collected a treble of last place spots in 2015, 16 and 17. Or the Bulldogs of 2008. 

But I think this team is worse, given the names on paper who are clearly aren’t playing for anything more than a pay check. 

The halves aren’t involved enough. When they are, the quality is so boring that you can see exactly what’s going to happen before it happens. Going through the motions every set like it’s a light training drill is not good enough.

The Bulldogs have publicly declared season 2021 is the beginning of a “genuine rebuild” and while their house is in order off the field, on the field it’s going to be a very long year.

Bulldogs fans are fuming. Even in previous seasons at least the team has played with passion and energy, losing a lot of matches by less than two tries. 

But season 2021 is different. They’re getting pumped across the park in all facets of the game. Individuals are not aiming up and their performances over the past month have been at a standard you’d expect from a local pub competition. 

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I feel sorry for Trent Barrett who is trying his guts out after a successful minor premiership year the the Penrith Panthers, leading their attack.

The difference between the two clubs is so clear. One group of players gives a damn about the jersey they’re wearing. The other doesn’t. 

There’s no quick fix, either. Barrett can only do so much. Mass changes won’t be possible because there isn’t the talent pool available in the top 30 but there’s enough there to experiment.

There’s only one solution for the current crop of players. Ride it out, lift, show heart and pride in the jersey. Or get out – which a lot will do come the end of the season.

Bring on season 2022. Until then, it’s torture and heartache for the Bulldogs faithful. A wooden spoon inevitable. 

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