2010 Position: 13th (9 wins, 15 losses)
Gains: Aiden Tolman (Melbourne Storm), Greg Eastwood (Leeds Rhinos, ESL), Trent Hodkinson (Manly Sea Eagles), Kris Keating (Parramatta Eels), Frank Pritchard (Penrith Panthers), Grant Millington (Cronulla Sharks), Jonathan Wright (Parramatta Eels), Michael Lett (St George Illawarra Dragons).
Losses: Ben Hannant (Brisbane Broncos), Nathan Massey (Canberra Raiders), Daniel Harrison (Manly Sea Eagles), Luke Patten (Salford City Reds, ESL), Brett Kimmorley (Retirement), Blake Green (Hull Kingston Rovers, ESL), Tim Winitana (Penrith Panthers), Yileen Gordon (Penrith Panthers), Ratu Tagive (Wests Tigers).
After a spectacular 2009, 2010 was supposed to be the year the Bulldogs consolidated and positioned themselves as a genuine premiership threat. Some experts even tipped them for premiership glory. Therefore finishing 13th and not making the finals was in many ways a failure for the boys from Belmore.
If there’s anything Todd Greenberg and coach Kevin Moore are making a name for themselves – it’s that they don’t take failures well. That is evident on the massive cleanout and recruitment after their previous failed year 2008 and again in 2010.
In many respects the Bulldogs could be the most unpredictable team in 2011. So many new faces, and a new spine (with the exception of serial pest Michael Ennis), the Bulldogs can either fire like they did in 2009, or fail like they did in 2008, 2010.
So much rests on the new halves pairing. What that will be is anyone’s guess, although it looks more likely that a Hodkinson and Roberts pairing will be given first crack. Losing the experience of Brett Kimmorley is a big blow, however having him in the coaching staff will be just the thing a young halfback like Hodkinson needs. Only time will tell if he’s ready to take the reins of this team and lead it to the finals in 2011.
What went right in 2010: After finishing 13th, you’d be hard pressed to find many positives for the Bulldogs. Jamal Idris stepped up to being a damaging centre (which was rewarded with a sky blue jersey). Also maybe one can argue that losing Ben Hannant is a positive as it was suggested in no uncertain terms that the whole returning to his family in QLD fiasco caused a rift in the club. Another positive is that Ben Roberts, who missed the majority of 2010, should be fit and ready to go from round 1. Many underestimate the blow losing him for so long had on the team.
What went wrong in 2010: Where do you begin? As mentioned above the Hannant issue was something the club didn’t deal with too well. Although Hannant was injured for an extended length, when he returned he failed to make the metres and lead by example like he did in 2009. Couple that with the fact at times the Bulldogs forwards failed to test the fringes more with at least some ball movement and foot skills, and it’s easy to see they were on the back foot more often than not in most their games. As a consequence, Kimmorley and Ennis where not at their best, which means the three most important players in their terrific 2009 campaign were ineffective for the most part in 2010. Losing Ben Roberts for the majority of the season did not help their causes too.
Final Say For 2011: In 2011, the Bulldogs bear very little resemblance to the team of 2010. With the addition of powerful forwards like Tolman, Eastwood and Pritchard, you would think the predictability in the Bulldogs pack from 2010 is long gone. You can predict a lot of creativity will come from those new signings, especially Pritchard and Eastwood. The forward pack looks much stronger and dangerous. The only question remains is if the new look spine can take advantage of the work created by the forwards. For what it’s worth, I think they will and I can see the Bulldogs making the eight, and once the finals come around, it’s anyone’s game.