Season 2018 is well and truly over for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
Sitting at the bottom of the ladder, September football isn’t even on the minds of players and staff at Belmore. Therefore, you would have to think all attention has been placed onto 2019 and getting back into the top eight. So here are some things the Bulldogs need to do to have a successful 2019 season.
1. Prioritise youth
Moreso for the future of the club, the Bulldogs need to start prioritising their up and coming players. The reason clubs like Brisbane and Melbourne have been successful for so long is because they maintain and develop their young prospects. Therefore, if their big-name players do leave or are squeezed out of the club they have a young core to build around.
The Bulldogs have already taken steps in the right direction by re-signing promising players Rhys Martin and Lachlan Lewis. Since making their debuts in 2018, both Martin and Lewis have cemented spots in the Bulldogs starting side and is one of the few bright spots for the club in 2018. Martin has racked up the points with the boot since making his debut and has been an attacking threat on the edge beside the Morris twins. Whereas Lewis has been very impressive in both attack and in defence. His kicking game has been a warm welcome to Bulldogs fans who have been wishing for a decent kicking game since Trent Hodkinson left.
The club have also signed multiple prospects for next season, notably Newcastle duo Jack Cogger and Nick Meany will make the move to Belmore in 2019. Both have made impressive debuts for the Knights this season and can potentially slip right into the one and seven at Belmore.
2. Find a marquee player
A bit of an obvious one here but the Bulldogs need to find an impact player. You can stop typing the comments now, because I know its been well publicised that the Bulldogs have nearly no cap room to work in a huge signing for 2019. But you would have to think the club has saved some sort of wiggle room by letting go big-money players such as Aaron Woods and Moses Mbye.
If rumours are true, at least one more big name will be shown the door at Belmore. More recently Aiden Tolman has been mentioned to leave and early retirement potentially for Kieran Foran could lead to more space in the cap for the Bulldogs to use.
In recent weeks, names like Corey Oates and James Segeyaro have been linked to the club, who would both be great additions to the Bulldogs. Both would be great attacking weapons for a club that is known for their sometime lacklustre attack. However, a more interesting possibility would be a reunion between Martin Taupau and the Bulldogs.
Taupau played for the Bulldogs from 2010-2013 but was only utilised off the bench and was never given a chance to blossom into the wrecking ball he is today. With speculation the prop is unhappy at Manly and looking for other options, it could be a prime opportunity for the club who handed him his first-grade debut to swoop in and sign the New Zealand international.
Former Canterbury board member Steve Mortimer has recently stated ‘’If Marty Taupau wants to come back, I will welcome him with open arms,” which could indicate a reunion is already being considered by the club. Imagine a front row consisting of David Klemmer and Martin Taupau, that’s enough to scare any grown man let alone make a dent in the biggest packs in the NRL.
3. Work out halves pairing
Even when fan favourite Josh Reynolds was at the club the halves have always been an issue for the Bulldogs. Lack of creativity and fifth tackle options are just a couple of problems that have been raised about recent half pairings at Belmore. Inconsistency and injuries hasn’t helped either. The Dogs started the year with Foran and Matt Frawley in the halves and have since had seven changes in the halves.
For the last few seasons, the Dogs have lacked halves who can take control of the team and guide them during crunch time. A decent half pairing and a good kicking game would do leaps and bounds for the Bulldogs. This season, the Dogs are first in total runs and fourth in total run metres. This indicates that the opportunities are there but are not being capitalised on.
However, a tough decision will have to be made in regard to the halves pairing for 2019. With promising halfback Cogger making the move to Belmore, Lewis and Jeremy Marshall-King showing promise and Foran still on contract for next season, Pay will have a tough decision to make in the halves.
Despite only making his debut this season, Lachlan Lewis will surely be in the starting team next season (unless Pay wants a riot by fans in the streets of Belmore). So that leaves Marshall-King, Cogger and Foran to fight out the last spot in the halves.
I’ll be the first to say I was optimistic about Foran going to the Bulldogs. Despite his horror run with injuries and form, you can’t take away his experience and creativity in the halves, which the Bulldogs lacked coming into the 2018 season. However, after a few rounds into the season it was clear that Foran wasn’t going to spark the Bulldogs lacklustre attack. If fans were to have their say it would be young Lewis and Cogger lining up in round one. Despite his season being cut short by injury Foran just hasn’t shown enough while on the field to cement his spot, with Cogger playing so well for Newcastle this season.