Pre-Season Prediction: 15th
Actual Finish: 12th
– Upsets Galore: The Dogs were never really relevant in the finals race in terms of an appearance themselves, but boy did they cause some issues for those teams competing for finals spots.
In the final six weeks of the season, they beat the Tigers (9th), Panthers (10th), the Broncos (8th) and the Bunnies (3rd).
This created havoc for all four sides who probably would have expected to beat the unfancied Dogs.
The Tigers missed finals by a win, as did the Panthers. The Broncos were whipped by Parra after falling to 8th by a result, and the Bunnies finished a win behind second place.
They also upset the Sharks, momentarily halting their finals charge, and beat the Eels at Bankwest.
– DWZ Signing: The mid-season signing of one time Kiwi captain Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was a brilliant piece of business by a club known lately for ridiculous recruitment decisions.
A super versatile player, DWZ provides a rep option across multiple positions, mainly at fullback.
The Dogs looked a far more complete side after his signings. There were, of course, other factors but the Dogs won seven games after his arrival.
His experience and talent is priceless for a club with so many young players. Brilliant signing.
– Completion Rate: Incredibly the Bulldogs, despite finishing 12th, finished the season with the game’s best completion rate of 80%.
As I’ve mentioned before, this can be a misleading stat, but a completion rate of 80% is pretty incredible. Perhaps it shows they need to take more risks, but show me a coach that wouldn’t take an 80% rate across an entire season.
– Big Losses: The Dogs started their season with two horror losses. A 40-6 battering at the hands of the Warriors had many, myself included, shuddering at the thought of the Dogs 2010 season. Week two didn’t see much of an improvement, with the Dogs being hammered 36-16 by the Eels.
For all the positives this year, the Dogs were played off the park far too often. Even the team that finished 15th in the Dragons ran up two scorelines and won a combined 72-10 over the Dogs.
– Blunt Attack: The Dogs won 10 of 24 games yet finished with a -151 points differential. Only the Dragons and Titans were worse. In the games where the Dogs defence leaked big points, they were no chance.
Only eight teams had better defensive records across the regular season, however, the Dogs finished a distant last in terms of points scored.
Even the ordinary, dare I say it awful, Titans scored 44 points that the boys from Belmore. That needs urgent attention.
– Foran Injury Curse: As a big fan of the former Premiership and World Cup winning number six, this hurts to type, but 2019 was another season where Kieran Foran spent almost as much time on the sideline as on the field.
Encouragingly he did manage two more games than last year with 14 games, there were too many times where he was forced off the field early.
I’m in no way blaming Foran for anything negative in the Dogs season, but if they’re to make finals Foran needs to play every game, or very close to it.
Unfortunately, he was again injured while playing for New Zealand against the Lions and will miss a large stretch of the start of 2020.
Star Player: Josh Jackson
This is going to be a hard one to justify using stats, as Jackson’s stats are not blowing away in terms of tries, line breaks or big meters.
That said, I’d love to see the stats on try saving tackles, or efforts despite the play being gone, or plays well beyond his expectations and job title.
Jackson is the heart and soul of this Dogs outfit. Stats wise he averaged over 100 metres per game and tackled at over 90% effectiveness. He played every game in the season showing his durability.
I couldn’t believe the stories linking him with a move away from the club.
Season Grading: C
They didn’t make finals, so ultimately the season can’t be seen as a great success, however, given the pre-season expectations, I think most Dogs fans will take 10 wins.
As mentioned before, they played a big part in deciding the make up of the top eight with a series of incredible late season victories.
2019 always felt like a rebuilding year at Belmore, however, after a series of big wins at the end of the season, I’d say they’re further along than expected.
They copped some awful losses, and at times looked every bit as bad as many predicted, however overall the Dogs enjoyed more good than bad.
They’ve added Joe Stimson and a few fringe reserve graders for 2020, however, it is the mid-season signing of DWZ that will play out to be the most important long-term.