The Bulldogs enter the 2019 season with a squad that arguably isn’t as good as the side that struggled in 2018.
Can they do enough to avoid the dreaded wooden spoon?
Jack Cogger (Newcastle Knights, 2020), Christian Crichton (Penrith Panthers, 2021), Corey Harawira-Naera (Penrith Panthers, 2022), Morgan Harper (2019), Tui Katoa (2019), Nick Meaney (Newcastle Knights, 2021), Dylan Napa (Sydney Roosters, 2021), James Roumanos (Cronulla Sharks, 2021), Chris Smith (Sydney Roosters, 2020), Sauaso Sue (Wests Tigers, 2020)
Lachlan Burr (New Zealand Warriors), Greg Eastwood (released), Asipeli Fine (released), Matt Frawley (Huddersfield Giants), David Klemmer (Newcastle Knights), Moses Mbye (Wests Tigers), Brett Morris (Sydney Roosters), Josh Morris (Cronulla Sharks), Clay Priest (released), Aaron Woods (Cronulla Sharks), Zac Woolford (Newcastle Knights)
The Dogs had a poor 2018 on and off the field. Fans won’t need reminding but past decisions have made recruitment very, very difficult. Dogs fans must be sick of seeing star players leave the club.
The Dogs best efforts came toward the end of the season on the back of young players like Lewis and Marshall-King. Rhyse Martin was a huge find in 2018 and has become a star.
Big signings Foran and Woods failed to fire, with Woods moving on. They’ve made a lot of difficult decisions in order to free up cap space moving forward. 2018 won’t be fondly remembered.
Their NSW Cup side did manage to win the national title though.
Best Recruit: Dylan Napa
Napa has been in the news over the weekend for strange off-field reasons, but we’ll focus on the footy here. That said, it’s disrupted the pre-season of the Dogs big name forward recruit.
Coming in for the Newcastle-bound David Klemmer, Napa will be expected to step in as the pack leader. He’s going to have to play bigger minutes than during his time in the tri-coloured jersey.
Napa has huge boots to fill and arrives on big money and a big profile. The Maroons firebrand has plenty of upside and should provide plenty of aggression in both attack and defence.
Future Star/One To Watch: Nick Meaney
Much was expected of the young number one for his former club Newcastle. Unfortunately he was stuck behind a little someone names Kayln Ponga so a move to the Dogs makes a lot of sense.
He is the most likely to start the season in the fullback role, and that’s an exciting prospect for Dogs fans.
Meaney showed plenty in his short stint at the back for the Knights before his off-season switch. He scored a few tries and even kicked a goal in his five NRL appearances.
While Hoppoate may shift into the one, I’m convinced that his best role is in the centres. For mine Meaney deserves an early shot in the custodian role. He has huge upside.
The Bulldogs in 2019. Where do they finish? @zerotackle
— 🍍 Reed Deeerr Play 🍍 (@suthodan) January 2, 2019
Star Player: Kieran Foran
I’ll likely cop grief in the comments for this but there really is no denying that Kieran Foran holds the keys to any potential Dogs run to the finals.
He was very poor in 2018, suffering form form and injuries, but the Premiership winning number six is a class act and still capable of amazing things on his day.
There were glimpses in 2018 where it looked as though the Sea Eagle version of Foran may be on his way back, but he just didn’t produce it enough to prove return on investment.
The Dogs found two pretty handy halves in the back end of last season so the pressure will be on the big money former Kiwi half, and rightly so. For the Dogs to feature in the finals race they need their star number six fit and firing.
Recruitment Grade: D
The Dogs hands are still tied re their salary cap due to some horror decisions made by previous management. They’ve not only lost the likes of Woods and Mbye, but they’ve lost both Morris boys, Eastwood and Klemmer.
Napa and CWH are big ins and should round out a pretty handy forward pack, but they’ve brought in fringe reserve graders otherwise. I say that with the greatest of respect but it’s factual.
Meaney is a clever in, as is Cogger, yet neither are going to set the competition alight and take the Dogs to a finals spot on the back of their performances.
The Dogs are relying on value signings and their talented NSW Cup winning squad to fill their squad.
The Dogs enter the 2019 season with a squad that arguably isn’t as good as the side that struggled in 2018.
David Klemmer is a huge out. He was the heart and soul of that club. His replacement is a pretty handy player, but Klemmer had something special.
Their recruitment has not been good. They simply did not have the funds available to go out and throw a million dollars at a future changing rep star recruit.
There is plenty of talent in this squad, while Dean Pay has proven himself to be a clever coach. He provided plenty of positives in 2018 despite their never being in a position to play finals footy.
The Dogs will provide nuisance value in 2018 and will beat some big name sides on their day, but I just can’t see enough points in this outfit to string together wins.
Always happy to be proven wrong, but the points just aren’t there, especially if Foran doesn’t come back in similar form that saw him take Manly to a title.