After a dogged performance against the Dragons where we kept an in-form side to 2 points, the Bulldogs need to repeat their heroics and start winning consecutive games but, I believe, it all starts with the team roster.
There’s still a chance, no matter how unlikely, to make the top four and solidify an earned spot in the top eight but, it has to start now.
If I were the coach of the Bulldogs this season, I’d make some changes to the current starting lineup in order to, hopefully, turn around and resurrect what remains of the 2017 season.
My starting lineup
- Brett Morris
- Marcelo Montoya
- Josh Morris
- Brenko Lee
- Tyrone Phillips
- Josh Reynolds
- Matt Frawley
- Aiden Tolman
- Moses Mbye
- James Graham
- Josh Jackson
- Adam Elliott
- David Klemmer
- Craig Garvey
- Sam Kasiano
- Raymond Faitala-Mariner
- Danny Fualalo
- Francis Tualau
In my humble opinion, the key change needed to be made in the squad is the switch of Brett Morris from the wing to fullback. I’d definitely have Brett Morris in the fullback role all year round. It seems to me like, in the current Bulldogs squad, he’s just being wasted out there on the wing waiting for the uncreative and uncoordinated spine to come up with a play or execute a set-piece that never seems to come.
Every time the ball comes his way and the flying winger finally gets his anxious and desperate hands on the ball, he always looks dangerous. He has all the characteristics and attributes which make a modern day fullback. He’s big and strong, fast and agile, aware and disciplined. Although he’s had an average season statistically, stats sometimes don’t portray the true nature of one’s performance. The Bulldogs have won 50% of their games this season with him in fullback (1 of 2).
Even though Will Hopoate has made a strong comeback to the game, I just don’t think he’s making enough of an impact from one of the main and key roles in the squad, especially now, when it’s needed most. The Bulldogs have won 25% of games with him in fullback (2 of 8).
One of the big talking points since his arrival to the team is Michael Lichaa. His performances from hooker have been nothing but dismal all year round. He poses almost no attacking threat. His direction and decision making has cost the Bulldogs many chances in the opposition’s third and his line speed and runs are almost unseen. The only positives he can take away from each game is his defensive effort and tackles made. I think that he should be replaced by Moses Mbye in hooker, indefinitely.
I honestly have no idea why Marcelo Montoya isn’t included in the lineup every single week. He’s a natural! Scores tries in most games, possesses all the attributes needed for a winger, has a great work rate and ethic… what more do you want? He has 5 tries in nine games this season with five line breaks.
With Josh Reynolds returning after the bye round, he can hopefully start where he left and link up with Matt Frawley as they have been a very dynamic and effective duo since their partnership first commenced in round 5 vs the Broncos. This halves partnership, whether it be both starting together or one being interchanged on, has directed the team to four wins from 5 with a +/- of 28. In contrast, the failed pairing of Frawley and Mbye has seen the Dogs only take one win from five.
I think the offensive and defensive tactics are failing and stats will prove it. In offence, the forwards always seem to be the first receiver in the opposition’s 20. This slows down the set play and doesn’t allow the ball to reach its target before the opposition realises what’s going on and shuts it down. The forwards aren’t as quick and skilful with the ball which means the passes made will be late, behind the receiver and ultimately will force an error or kill the play.
I hate this up and in defensive tactic. Against an experienced and intelligent half, he’ll just kick in behind early or shift the ball to the edge and straighten the play in between the winger’s edge and inside shoulder of the centre isolating one man. You simply can’t defend, flat-footed, from behind. I think we should take notes from the Broncos and the Storm and implement a shuffling style defence. The Storm is currently sitting on top for +/- with 106 points while the Broncos have 76 points on their tally.
The Bulldogs are currently sitting at a +/- of -53 with 194 points scored and 247 points conceded. But, at the end of the day, the coach can only do and say so much. Once they cross the chalk and the whistle is blown, it’s up to the players to produce, implement and improvise.
In conclusion, I believe drastic changes need to be made both tactically and with the roster. I don’t think the coach should shoulder all the blame, the work rate and ethics portrayed by the players out on the field do not represent the standards set and expected by the club and fans alike. It’s not too late to revive this failing season, but changes need to be made, now.