Predicted Finish: 12th
Actual Finish: 11th
Best Performer: David Klemmer
In a season where the Dogs main stars collectively failed to stand up, Kangaroos prop David Klemmer did himself proud. Playing 20 games across the season for his club side (plus all three Origin contests) Klemmer never took his foot off the pedal. He ran for 3256 metres from 349 hit ups.
He made 12 more hit-ups than Aidan Tolman, making 500 metres more while playing three fewer games. Those are impressive numbers from the monstrous number 13. Considering how hard he worked in Origin, then again for the Kangaroos in the World Cup, Klemmer has earned an extended off-season. The Dogs will hope he comes back refreshed for the new year for a repeat performance.
Season Highlight: Round 23-26
Despite missing the finals by a fair way, the Dogs managed to end the season in brilliant fashion. In the last three weeks of the competition, they recorded three wins, including a 30-16 effort over top-four contenders Manly. The fact they belted a side who were flying at the time shows just what this club is capable of when they get it right.
A 26-14 win away to the Titans followed meaning the Dogs would start a two-game winning streak for only the second time in 2017. Finally, in round 26, the Dogs were able to beat the Dragons 26-20. The win was made special due to the fact that the Dragons needed only to win to play finals footy, while the Dogs were already deep in Mad Monday preparations. The fact they could beat a side with everything to play for makes you wonder what happened earlier in the year.
Best Signing: Aaron Woods
I haven’t always been the biggest fan of Aaron Woods but there is no denying the magnitude of this signing. The current NSW Blues and Kangaroos prop will add some much needed go forward to a struggling Dogs pack. It’s crazy to think how many battles the Dogs lost up front this year considering the likes of Jackson, Klemmer, Tolman and Graham were in their ranks. Woods will work hard, make plenty of metres and will tackle all day. It’s pretty much a straight swap for the departed Graham, although Woods is of course much younger. Woods made almost 160 metres per game in a badly beaten Tigers side. Those numbers will excite Dogs fans who just want to see their team go forward after two-years of side to side misdirection.
New halves combination: To say the Dogs needed a shake-up in terms of creativity is a drastic understatement. Mbye and Reynolds, as hard as they tried, just couldn’t fire the attack at Belmore for the past two seasons. Mbye has reportedly been moved back to fullback, with Keiran Foran signing to provide the side guidance. Although the status of the Dogs number seven jersey is still unknown, there are reports the club is looking to free up the cash to enter the market. Foran will obviously provide creativity that has been lacking for many years, but his recent problems have been well documented. Regardless, a change in direction was needed and has been delivered.
New coach/New direction: Without twisting the knife into one of the NRL’s most successful modern-day coaches, the final days of Des Hasler’s reign were shambolic. Michael Lichaa was informed he was to join the departing players on their goodbye stage after the Dogs last home game. Reports indicate he wasn’t even sure of his future until then. Just weeks later Hasler was moved on and Lichaa re-signed. Crazy scenes. Dean Pay has come in to provide a new direction for a club that has lost its identity over the past two years. The club has gone from a free-scoring, fun side to employing the most frustrating modern day game plan in memory. Pay has been armed with two huge signings and the backing of the board. Let’s hope he can at least encourage some more entertaining football.
Season Grading: D
The Dogs missed the finals despite having three (current or former) NSW representatives in their back line, a former Origin series winning half, as well as Klemmer, Woods, Graham and Jackson. There is no way to spin that in a positive direction. It’s not good enough.
Des Hasler bore the brunt of the negativity, at least online, and ultimately paid the price when he was moved on following the end of the season. That said, the Dogs superstars just didn’t stand up with any regularity and will need to do far better in 2018 and beyond.
Michael Lichaa’s game has been blunted so severely that the youngster once seen as a future Origin number nine looked as though he was going to be left without a club for next season. Only when Hasler freed the reigns of his game did the Dogs look anything like themselves.
Club favourite Josh Reynolds was moved on, a decision that to this day is still hotly debated by fans of the blue and whites.
There wasn’t much to write home about in 2017, although the Dogs did twice go on winning streaks that should remind fans of what they are capable of.