The Canterbury Bulldogs have been on a recruiting rampage during the off-season, but they could still do with one or two more quality players.

Ten players have been signed, and many will slot straight in for the Bulldogs as they roll out a completely new team for a 2022 campaign where they will finally look to return to prominence.

There is no doubt just how bad the past few seasons have been for the Bulldogs, with multiple finishes in the bottom four on the trot, including the wooden spoon in 2021.

But there is an air of optimism over the club for 2022, even if it may take them some time to gel at the start of the season.

Trent Barrett and Phil Gould seem to have a strategy in place, and this will be a year where they begin to build back to the success the club enjoyed in the early 2010s.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 20: Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett looks on during the round 15 NRL match between the Parramatta Eels and the Canterbury Bulldogs at Bankwest Stadium, on June 20, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

But there are still gaps and still problem areas.

So, if we remove contracts and the salary cap, giving the Bulldogs an open cheque book to chase whoever they would like, who would they pick?

Who would your club steal?
Who would your club steal?
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Current squad for 2022

Josh Addo-Carr, Paul Alamoti, Corey Allan, John Asiata, Jake Averillo, Bailey Biondi-Odo, Braidon Burns, Matt Burton, Joshua Cook, Nick Cotric, Matt Doorey, Matthew Dufty, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, Kyle Flanagan, Jack Hetherington, Josh Jackson, Tui Katoa, Max King, Jeremy Marshall-King, Brent Naden, Jayden Okunbor, Tevita Pangai Junior, Aaron Schoupp, Ava Seumanufagai, Joe Stimson, Luke Thompson, Jackson Topine, Paul Vaughan, Corey Waddell, Brandon Wakeham.

The gaps in the Bulldogs' best 17

It's fairly clear that, while the Bulldogs have addressed plenty of issues within their squad, there is one major one which still exists.

That is at hooker.

Jeremy Marshall-King has done a solid job of playing there, but he was originally a stop-gap solution who has now turned into their first-choice hooker, and it looks as if that will continue into 2022.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 10: Jeremy Marshall-King of the Bulldogs celebrates scoring a try with team mates during the round 21 NRL match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium on August 10, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Marshall-King is a half who has turned himself into a nine, but would now make the ideal number 14 while potentially learning off a first-rate dummy half.

There is no surprise the Bulldogs are reportedly chasing Reed Mahoney, and have also been rumoured to be in the hunt for Brandon Smith, although are unlikely to have the money to compete with other clubs chasing the Storm star.

While you could argue that a better combination could be created than Burton and Averillo in the halves, they deserve a chance to work, and it's not Canterbury's most pressing issue.

A defensive fullback too could come into the reckoning, but whether Matt Dufty can improve that element of his game in a new system also deserves a chance.

The other area of improvement would be getting Josh Jackson back into the middle. It would appear that the arrival of Paul Vaughan will push Luke Thompson back to lock, with Jackson then joining Tevita Pangai Junior on the edge.

If they could sign a second-rower with plenty of experience to work with Pangai Junior - not another firebrand type player - it would allow Thompson to play up front, Jackson to play at lock and Jack Hetherington to come from the bench.

The potential for Jackson - one of the best middle third defenders in the competition - to play in that position almost makes this a toss up between a second-rower and hooker for who Canterbury would prefer to steal.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 19: Josh Jackson of the Bulldogs looks dejected after defeat during the round 6 NRL match between the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at ANZ Stadium on April 19, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The candidates to steal

Option 1: Apisai Koroisau (Penrith Panthers)
When it comes to players who have spark and creativity out of dummy half, it's incredibly difficult to go past Koroisau.

The Penrith hooker might have dropped off a little during the back end of 2021 following an Origin debut, but that doesn't mean he has lost the skill which has made him one of the Panthers' most important players over the past 24 months.

The star is in his prime and seemed to return to somewhere near his best in the grand final. His ability to stand up in big games has been evident over the years, dating right back to his beginnings at the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Working in combination with the likes of Matt Burton, Matt Dufty and Pangai Junior, Koroisau is one player who knows how to take advantage of tired forwards in the middle third at the back end of each half, and knows how to turn a game on its head in a matter of minutes.

It's a game-breaking style X-Factor the Bulldogs lack even with all their signings.

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LB Assists

Option 2: Reed Mahoney (Parramatta Eels)
There is absolutely no surprise the Bulldogs are keen on signing Mahoney for real from 2023.

He has quickly turned himself into one of the game's best dummy halves and had a wonderful 2021 season, only for it to be ruined by injury.

Without that, the Eels may have gone deeper into the finals, and Mahoney almost certainly would have made his State of Origin debut - something which is well and truly on the cards for 2022.

He is potentially the best defensive hooker in the game, but his consistency and creativity in attack has improved in leaps and bounds over the last 18 months.

It has been a joy to watch Mahoney slowly take over the Eels' outfit, and you could argue he was the single biggest player to miss the finals series.

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Option 3: Damien Cook (South Sydney Rabbitohs)
Cook is the game's best dummy half.

He might have struggled a little during 2020, but he has now completely adapted to the new rules and was the gel which sparked South Sydney's left edge to a record-breaking season during 2021.

Cody Walker had more try assists than any other player ever has before, and Alex Johnston found the tryline almost like clockwork.

It was a season to behold, and you could well and truly argue that without Cook, South Sydney would never have made it anywhere near the deciding match of the season, let alone be able to push Penrith to the finish line in it.

Cook has also improved his defence out of sight, and with a stack of Origin experience and more importantly, winning experience at club level under his belt, he would bring plenty to the rebuilding Canterbury outfit.

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Option 4: Angus Crichton (Sydney Roosters)
Crichton is the option for the Bulldogs if they were to go for a second-row allowing Jackson and Thompson to play in the middle third.

What the Bulldogs would need in this position is a player with experience who is rock solid. Not another firebrand in the form of Pangai Junior.

If you were going down that path, you'd look at someone like David Fifita.

In the end, this came down to a toss up between Crichton and Tariq Sims, however, the experience of Crichton is simply too much to go past.

Origins, Test matches, premierships, he has done it all during his glittering career at the tri-colours.

He would be the perfect foil and frankly, coach, for Pangai Junior in getting him to become that consistent player which could turn him into one of the best in the game, and would add plenty in a damaging combination of his own with Matt Dufty and Matt Burton.

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As much as a second-rower would allow Jackson to play at lock and overall strengthen their go-forward in the middle, all the talent Canterbury have signed is virtually worthless without an A-grade hooker.

Someone who has the experience to control the attack, the running game to hurt opposition defensive lines and the service to help his forwards get on the front foot.

Jeremy Marshall-King is solid, but he simply isn't that.

Koroisau seemed to lose a little bit of his zing at the back-end of 2021, and while he will get it back, he doesn't appear to be the correct fit for Canterbury.

Mahoney is an intriguing proposition, but doesn't have the same level of experience as Cook, which is something Canterbury need.

Cook has been the key factor behind South Sydney's dominant left edge and has a defensive game which will rival any hooker in the competition.

He is the ideal candidate for Canterbury to steal.

Damien Cook (South Sydney Rabbitohs)

NRL Semi Final - Eels v Rabbitohs
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 10: Damien Cook of the Rabbitohs celebrates as he runs in to score a try during the NRL Semi Final match between the Parramatta Eels and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Bankwest Stadium on October 10, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The next team to be covered in this series will be the Cronulla Sharks.