Stability. Stability. Stability.
If the Bulldogs players played as hard as the Canterbury Bankstown boardroom fights, the Bulldogs would be premiership contenders every year.
After more upheaval in 2020 at board level and the sacking of head coach Dean Pay mid-season, newly appointed coach Trent Barrett has a tough road ahead if recent history tells us anything.
After a few disappointing seasons under the one time Bulldogs favourite son Pay, all Dogs fans are hopeful Barrett can revolutionise the club.
The former Manly head coach and Panthers assistant of the 2020 Grand Finalists, Barrett has taken on a huge challenge. Many in the rugby league world warned Barrett about taking on the job, concerned he may end up on the wrong end of further boardroom infighting and interference.
Barrett has been active in the market place so far, making some good signings to rejuvenate the Dogs squad. Kyle Flanagan comes in from being let go by the Roosters, exciting tough young back Nic Cotric comes from Canberra where he played 93 games after making his debut as teenager in 2017. Now a State of Origin representative, player Cotric brings class and experience.
Others to sign for 2021, promising forwards Corey Waddell from Manly and Jason Hetherington from Penrith. Hetherington may not be the last player to come across from Penrith with Barrett, as the Bulldogs remain active this off-season.
Hopes are high that the Dogs can snare very promising five- eighth Matt Burton and young forward Spencer Leniu. The biggest prize might be yet to come. Rumours are still swirling that Melbourne Storm’s Josh Addo-Carr will be with the Dogs in 2021.
If Barrett can sign his targets, the Dogs will have a very different look for 2021. Without the signing of Burton and Addo-Carr, Barrett will still have a good squad to work with. By adding the confirmed signings the Dogs will be very competitive.
Matt Doorey looks promising and new signing Hetherington was very impressive during his loan stint with the Warriors last season. The Bulldogs definitely need an injection of talent in their forwards to help Josh Jackson, Adam Elliott and co.
Jake Averillo looks to be a very exciting prospect. Unbelievable pace and agility, Averillo will hopefully get more game time under Barrett. Where he fits into the puzzle will ultimately depend on the outcome of further signings.
The halves will be fighting each other for the starting spots. Kyle Flanagan will be jumping out of his skin to get started. Having been let go by the Roosters after only one season would have hurt him. How he bounces back from such public disappointment and embarrassment will be a test of character for the young man.
Most critics would have given Flanagan a pass mark for his first full NRL season. Like many young halves, he was inconsistent and at times his defence was fragile. Yet not many would have predicted his departure from the Roosters after one somewhat successful season.
Looking at the Bulldogs squad they have a good mix of youngsters and experience. They have added some very good talent and could yet add more. Having signed Flanagan, they have a good half with fire in his belly to prove doubters wrong. What the Bulldogs need though is a playmaker.
Lachlan Lewis, Brandon Wakeham and Averillo will also contest for the other starting spot should the Bulldogs miss out on Matt Burton. Both Lewis and Wakeham have had the starting halfback job at times but never cemented the position.
If they can land Burton from the Panthers they will go from being very competitive to being a team that will challenge for a finals spot. Burton’s limited opportunities with Penrith have shown he is a very classy player and unlucky to have Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai in front of him.
Coach Barrett has proven he can coach. His first season with the Sea Eagles was very successful. His second was impeded by back room and off-field interferences and lack of resources and support.
Should the Bulldogs maintain stability off the field and let Barrett be his own man, Canterbury will be more than competitive. If he is able to pull off the signings of Burton and Addo-Carr, they will be a serious contender at the end of the 2021 season.