The Canterbury Bulldogs picked up the wooden spoon in 2021. Here is their season review.
Pre-season predicted finish: 11th
Actual finish: 16th
Record: Three wins (-370)
2021 season snapshot
In two words - not good!
It took the Bulldogs until Round 7 to register a victory. They wouldn't taste success again until Round 14. Their third, and final win in 2021 came in round 25.
You don't need me to point out the obvious: that is a long time between drinks.
In the salary cap era, no team should be this bad. They finished eight points behind the 15th-placed North Queensland Cowboys. They were 14 competition points and 300 differential points outside the top eight.
As we'll discuss further, the work done off the field was marvellous. Unfortunately for fans this season though, they were simply there to make up the numbers.
Scoring 88 points less than the next worst attacking side, they were never in most games. Their 340 points scored is downright ugly when compared to their 710 conceded.
Jackson averaged 113 metres per game and tackled at over 96 per cent. Considering the side conceded more than 700 points, that is an incredible individual stat.
The 30-year-old is absolutely ageless. He's still playing big minutes every single week. He's not one to stand out wide and take a break either.
Truthfully he's not the kind of player who will make 250 metres a game or break 30 tackles, but I guarantee you it's easy to notice when he is absent.
Jackson has been the heart and soul of this club for as long as I can remember and will be a huge part of their 2022 efforts to return to finals footy.
Breakout star: Aaron Schoupp
The young centre was a real highlight for the Dogs in 2021. He debuted in Round 11 and quickly established himself as a first-choice centre option.
He averaged 140 running metres per game in his 13 appearances and crossed for three tries.
Proving how difficult it was to stop his momentum, he recorded 33 tackle breaks.
His metres per game and tackle breaks quite easily accounted for, and exceeded, those of Corey Allan. Considering their pedigrees heading into this season, that's very promising for Schoupp.
A rare diamond in the rough that was 2021.
He couldn't have done much more.
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- 2021 is over: This may sound like a cop out but let's be serious here. The Bulldogs were never going to move the needle in '21 and spent the entire season preparing for next year.
The Dogs signed extremely well and most of the commentary across social media focused on 2022 and beyond. Matt Burton was mentioned far more than any Dogs half this season.
By about Round 5 it became clear that this was not going to be a successful season. Dogs fans quickly turned their focus to next season, and for good reason.
- Recruits are coming: They're coming and they're coming en masse.
This completely reshapes the club in one, incredible off-season. Their side will be almost unrecognisable for Round 1 next year. I've never seen anything like it.
- Three-win season: There is absolutely no way to spin it, three wins across an NRL season is downright embarrassing.
The Doggies did manage to end their season on a high with their biggest and best win of the season, a 38-0 win over the Tigers.
Wins over the Sharks and Dragons rounded out their season in terms of competition points. They were three highlights amongst an absolute mountain of losses.
- Kyle Flanagan: The former Shark and Roosters young gun was signed as the long-term option at seven yet is very much on the outer yet again.
It was a horror season for the NYC record point scorer both through a lack of form and a head-scratching approach by Trent Barrett.
He was named, dropped, brought back, dropped, brought back again and then dropped. All very publicly. Young Flanagan never really stood a chance.
I was tempted to split their off-season performance from their on season efforts, which would be polar opposites, but I'm basing this purely on results.
The Dogs were, by far, the worst side across the entire competition. Not even the biggest Dogs fan could spin it any other way.
At times they showed genuine fight, at times they looked brilliant, but the large majority of their games were simply spectators.
The Dogs spent 2021 preparing for 2022. The pain was vey real but it's over now. Thanks to some incredible work done in head office the Dogs look a far different side moving forward.