SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 12: Marcelo Montoya of the Bulldogs celebrates with his team mates after scoring a try during the round 14 NRL match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the St George Illawarra Dragons at ANZ Stadium on June 12, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

2017 was a disaster for the Bulldogs. Missing the finals is an almost unthinkable prospect for the club after a long period of sustained success in terms of qualifying for the finals. Des Hasler has paid the price as a result, meaning club legend Dean Pay has the reigns for 2018.

The club lost the heart and soul of their side as Josh Reynolds and James Graham departed, however in Foran and Woods they’ve arguably upgraded in both positions. I was really surprised to see Brenko Lee released to the Titans following some impressive efforts in 2017.

Many fans across social media turned on their once legendary coach in Hasler following two seasons of sub par attacking football. I love mentioning the fact that the Dogs halves would rather take the tackle on the last play other than risking a misplaced kick.

The Dogs need to improve in a big way in 2018 if they want to be anywhere near finals footy. Sides around them have improved, and while the Dogs have recruited two superstars, it’s the change at the top that may make or break their season.

Recruitment Grading: B

On paper the Dogs have recruited an international, premiership winning five-eighth and the first prop picked in any representative side. They’ve also picked up the criminally underrated Nu Brown from the Sharks. Although they’ve lost James Graham, Josh Reynolds, Sam Kasiano and Brenko Lee, I’d say the Dogs came out in front overall. The Bulldogs 2018 season relies so heavily on Kieran Foran. If he can rediscover his best form there is no doubt he can lift this talented side to great heights. The question is, when was the last time Foran hit that level of form, consistently? His Warriors stint was ok, but injuries and off-field distractions summed up his tenure. So too his time with the Eels. No doubt there were some brilliant performances mixed in, but overall the Dogs need only the positive side of Foran’s game or this B turns very quickly into a D or worse.

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Star Player: Moses Mbye

So much was expected of Mbye when he moved into the halves. I’d argue the move was too quick and too much pressure was placed on him, but I absolutely love the publicly announced shift to fullback. Mbye is a running player with clever ball skills. He is a textbook fullback in an attacking sense. His game in the halves lacked a kicking option and he forced to make too many tackles in 2017. The shift negates both deficiencies. I expect a brilliant season by the man once touted as a future Maroon superstar. He played some magical football in the centres but fullback should suit him given his ball playing abilities. Certainly one to watch.

Strength: Big, talented, aggressive pack

The Bulldogs boast the two starting Kangaroo props in Aaron Woods and David Klemmer. Throw in Aiden Tolman, Adam Elliott and Josh Jackson and you have a powerful forward pack capable of matching any side in the competition. Greg Eastwood recently had a positive injury update and should be back to his best in 2018. Woods has been brought in to be a pack leader, a role he should flourish in. He was seen as a workhorse for the Tigers and should provide very similar numbers in defense to the man he replaced in James Graham. Klemmer is the key. He is one of the game’s most impactful forwards on his day and I’m backing his 2018 to be a career best season.

Weakness: Lack of attacking options

Despite the addition of Foran and Brown I still don’t see where regular points come from in this Dogs lineup. Michael Lichaa looked a far better player in the final rounds once the leash was taken off so perhaps he will inspire a point scoring frenzy. Mbye at fullback provides a better option, but Brown/Frawley and Foran have pressure on them from literally day one. If Foran doesn’t fire, or suffers injury, where does that leave the Dogs? The answer is somewhere around the ‘in big trouble’ area. The Morris boys are fantastic but are the wrong side of 30. Brenko Lee was arguably their best attacking back but has departed. It all comes back to Foran, whoever partners him at halfback, Mbye and Lichaa. Perhaps a move back to the centres for Hopoate will spark something.

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Prediction: 13th

Placing the Bulldogs is a difficult task. As mentioned above the Dogs season heavily relies on the performances of Kieran Foran and whoever partners him in the halves. It will likely be either Frawley or Brown playing halfback, although the club is trying to convince the Knights to allow Cogger to move across having signed to move to the club from 2019 onward.

There is no doubt the Dogs will win plenty of battles in the middle. Klemmer, Tolman and Woods are as good a middle three forwards as any side can put forward. Josh Jackson is a rep mainstay and should cause havoc again running wide.

It all comes down to the question: ‘can the Dogs score enough points in 2018’?

Unfortunately I just can’t see it. I like Mbye to fullback and I believe Lichaa is a better player than we have seen. Hopoate moves back to the centres but has yet to re-find the form that made him a New South Wales rep extremely early in his career.

If Foran can play all 24 games, then who knows? If Brown or Frawley can hit peak form early on, then who knows? If Mbye can position himself well from round one, who knows?

Too many questions in my view. I don’t see the Dogs playing finals footy. They can really finish anywhere from 10th to 14th for mine. 13th.

28 COMMENTS

  1. Bulldogs are entering the rebuilding phase so obviously not expecting much from them. I think Mbye will be a star in a poor season for the dogs. Plenty of young guns will come through including Cogger who I look forward to seeing in first grade hopefully develops a good halves partnership with Foran who I also think will have a good year in a poor season for the dogs.

    My Bulldogs preview
    Best Player: Mbye
    Best Buy: Cogger
    Finish: 13th

      • Guess what Manly smashed this side 36-0, showing you win some you lose some. Manly are a better team than the bulldogs in fact they were better than 10 sides in the end finishing 6th.

        • We saw a much better team in the last 3 rds, as Hasler knew he was gone so he let go the leash and let them play attacking footy and he let Lichaa run!! I went to the 2 games of bulldogs vs manly and in the first game Lichaa didnโ€™t run and the attack was poor and in the second game Lichaa ran much more and they all looked like they felt free

    • ๐Ÿ˜‚ guess what , we lost to the worst bulldogs side in there history, statistically one of the worst attacking sides to ever play NRL , we had more to play for , our darling fullback and half and they pants us ,

      • Wrong , how many top 8 sides did the Dogs pants in 2017 , I have greater expectations than you , sides like the Dogs of 2017 are your bread n butter guaranteed 2 points , your happy with mediocre, Iโ€™m donโ€™t accept mediocre

        • Every team gets beaten every once and a while, they lose games that should be 2 points especially a young and inconsistent side as our 2017 team was. It happens get over it, Iโ€™m not happy with losing those games but every sides loses those types of games every now and then. Iโ€™m a realist and I know those things happen, Iโ€™m not expecting perfection because nothing is perfect.๐Ÿ‘Š๐Ÿป๐Ÿ˜Ž

  2. Unknown entity, with a new coach new halves a new fullback and a new prop, could be top eight or could be bottom four. Just have to wait and see how Dean Pay gets them playing. One thing is certain though, Pay will be big on defence for the doggies. I will have an estimate guess and predict somewhere between 11th-8th

    • The Dogs have a completely new spine, Mbye still to prove himself at FB and Foran has to prove he can complete a full season (only 17 games from 26 for the Warriors and 9 for the Eels). Besides that they still have the wrong man at hooker and the service from dummy half will be just as erratic as ever (irrespective of whether of not Lichaa can find a running game). The Dogs defence will need to improve because they don’t look like that have many points in them IMO.

      • Agree 100% with your last sentence. The Dogs have struggled with points for a while now, and the addition of Foran to the halves should improve the team from an organisational point of view, but he is not a half who will create a lot of opportunities for points. The great unknown though is what Pay will bring and what his game plan will be. If he is truly trying to bring back some form of the “dogs of war” then the points will still be light on I think. So, yes, defence is the key for the dogs in 2018 without a doubt. I am thinking 10th spot is the best they will get on the ladder.

        • Cheers mate and thanks for not bringing up the numerours typos. There are “others” here who camnot help themselves as they have nothing else to bring to the table orher than a red marker pen. But as they say, “those who CAN, write. Those who CAN’T, edit.”

        • You are NOT my target species eels47. Catch and release I’m afraid. Now I have to redo my bates and hope that you haven’t scared the other fish off. ๐ŸŽฃ๐ŸŸ

        • Did you just take a second “bait” mate? I’ will run out of bate at this rate mate. Dr. Seuss, ah thank you!

  3. R.I.P Graeme “Changa” Langlands. A legend of the game who helped to make the game the great spectacle it is. One of the giants of the game is gone. Condolences to the family, particularly to his daughter Monique, who I once spoke to at length and she absolutely idolised her Dad. My thoughts are with her and her family.

  4. Dogs are a real wild card, they have the names and they have ability – Pay will get the mongrel back in them.
    10-15th.

  5. I would have Nu brown in the halves with Foran
    I reckon the dogs will finish 8th I reckon they will just scrap into the 8.

    1: Cowboys ( urgubly the best side on paper
    2: Roosters
    3: Storm
    4: Sharks
    5: Souths
    6: Penrith
    7: Eels
    8: Dogs

    • I canโ€™t see cronulla making the 8 this year, Maloney is a huge loss and Dugan isnโ€™t what he use to be.

    • I agree with ihm, the Sharks are not a top 4 side in 2018 IMO. The loss of Maloney has always been felt by every the team he has left as their fortunes have fallen the following year (Storm not included as Maloney was just starting out and did not have the influence he did at the Warriors, Roosters or Sharks). I also don’t see the Dogs finishing ahead of the Sea Eagles, the Knights or the Broncos in any case. The Sharks are a chance of missing the 8 altogether (along with Souths if everything does not fall into place) as the 3 aforementioned will put pressure on the top 8 (Manly’s halves pairing being one of the question marks affecting their chances.

      Unless Souths fire on all cylinders and avoid significant injuries throughout the season they will probably finish below the Panthers and the Eels BUT if they have a run of form at the business end of the season (like they have in the last 2 years – Rounds 25 and 26 in 2017 notwithstanding) then they could be a threat come finals time if they are anywhere in the top 8.

  6. Maybe I am optimistic but I see the dogs ending up between 6-8th spot.
    If you take what they did in the last 3 rounds and the addition of Foran Woods and Brown. The movement of Mbye to fullback and the new coach I see them as the tam that will “turn the most heads” this season. I think Foran will have a blinder season. I also see Pay blooding some impressive young guns as well.

    Watch this space dogs fans .. A whole different outcome for 2018

  7. A good chance for the spoon imho – quite possibly fighting it out with Worriers and Tiggers for last spot.
    They gained Woods but lost Kasiano, gained Foran but lost Reynolds
    They have a rookie coach and FB, 2 x centres who don’t have much attacking in them but could be said to be reasonably solid in defence, maybe one half decent winger and one broken down winger, no depth in the halves for when Foran inevitably goes missing (injured or mentally), some reasonable go-forward with Klemmer and “back into the defence Woods”. Plus, it looks like Eastwood may have played his last game as well.
    Unlike most other clubs, their net recruitment (i.e. loss v’s gains) is only a slight improvement on their 2017 roster and we all know what happened there.
    On the other hand, if Dean Pay brings any of his resilience and hard work as a player to the club, then it may be a different story.

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