Predicted Finish: 14th
Actual Finish: 15th
Unfortunately a pretty predictable season for the Bulldogs. On paper they simply didn't have the squad to match it with the big boys. The fact fans openly celebrated avoiding finishing 16th says it all.
- Avoiding the wooden spoon: This might come across as taking a shot at the club here but I'm dead serious. The Dogs needed SOMETHING out of 2020 to build on for next year and beyond.
Not finishing last is hardly anything to frame and display in the club foyer, however they were far from the worst team in 2020 and finishing last would have been hugely demoralising. They could very well have finished two or three places higher such were the nature of some of their losses.
The NRL community rallied behind the Dogs to overcome the odds and relegate the Broncos to 16th. It was very tongue-in-cheek of course but the reality is the Dogs were far from the worst team this season.
- Round 19: Ok on paper this was just a one off result, but the 26-16 win over a red hot Bunnies outfit was something the Dogs can hang their hats on when looking over their efforts this year.
Souths were surging toward a top four finish while the Dogs season ended months earlier, so motivation seemed as though it would be hard to come by for the Blues and Whites. On the back of a 92% completion rate and a kicking masterclass from Wakeham and Lewis, the Dogs caused a huge upset that very few would have predicted.
Jayden Okunbor had a night out with 236 run metres, two line breaks and a try assist. Aiden Tolman bossed the middle with 232 metres which included over 100 post-contact metres.
- Future Sorted/Signing Spree: Trent Barrett being named coach in July ensured that he would be able to impose his vision on the club for 2021. There was talk he would shift right away from his role with the Panthers, however I think it's a positive that he didn't.
He now has an entire off-season to shape the team how he wants it. The mid-season signing of Luke Thompson provided a shot in the arm. The signing of Kyle Flanagan provides a potential marquee player for the Dogs to build around for the next few seasons.
Nick Cotric is an Origin-level outside back and makes the Dogs more lethal in attack. Jack Hetherington adds grunt to the pack. Burton will join the club in 2022 while Mansour has been linked with the club for next year. Good signs for 2021 and beyond.
- Pre-Season: Coming off a substandard 2019 season, the Bulldogs needed everything to go right to give themselves the best possible opportunity in 2020. Unfortunately that was not to be as Jayden Okunbor and Corey Harawira-Naera's actions caused the Dogs a world of trouble.
Without going into it, both player's terrible decisions caused unneeded distractions as the Dogs went into their Round 1 clash, whilst robbing Dean Pay of two of his certain starters. CHN slammed the club on the way out when he should have personally apologised to every member the club had. Terrible look and unneeded distraction.
- Slow Start As mentioned above, the Dogs needed a good pre-season to hit the ground running. Unfortunately that did not happen, with the Dogs only managing a single victory in the opening ten rounds of competition.
Although it was a solid win over fellow strugglers the Dragons, they couldn't build from there. Canterbury would only add two more wins all season but truthfully if you start one from ten, the season is already gone and finals are nothing but a pipedream.
Three straight losses opened their season before the aforementioned victory over the Red V. Not ideal to say the least.
- Foran's stint at the club ends: Foran was signed on huge money by Des Hasler to take the club back to the promised land of finals footy and beyond. Unfortunately his injury woes continued, meaning his time at the club will be looked back upon as an expensive failure.
Foran, at times, was the Dog's best player by a wide margin. Almost on cue however, he would hobble off the field just as he was getting going. I remember typing numerous times this season that "if Foran stayed on the field, they win that game". Unfortunately it was not to be. He heads to Manly to rejoin Hasler, leaving Dogs fans extremely disappointed with what they saw from Foran.
Star Player: Josh Jackson
Honestly there weren't many contenders here. Multiple players showed signs, however the club captain was again their best. Jackson played all 20 games and tackled and ran himself into the ground in every game.
Jackson played the full 80 minutes in the club's first 14 games of the season. He averaged almost 100 metres a game in an often well handled back and tackled at over 90% efficiency.
He lead from the front in every game he played across the 20 rounds and never, ever let anyone down. Was more consistent than outright brilliant but in a season boasting only three wins, that's not unexpected.
Season Grading: F
Despite the end of season celebrations across social media when they avoided finishing last, this was a horror season for the once finals regulars.
Raymond Faitala-Mariner topped the club's try scoring ranks with six. With all due respect to the brilliant back rower's efforts, that's deplorable.
The Dogs should have won more games than they did. They bottled finishes and dropped games they looked like they had won but the fact is that they didn't win those games.
The Dogs made some smart decisions late on in the season and enter 2021 with a far better squad. They are still a few additions short of a finals charge but the sooner they can move on from 2020 the better.