I don’t think it’s unfair to suggest that there have been a lean last few years for fans of the Bulldogs. The once consistent NRL Heavyweights have been reduced to a side who celebrated not finishing last in 2020.
Back-ended deals, eye raising signings, a string of coaches walked despite their best efforts, ridiculous decisions by higher management and numerous other factors have combined to recently sink the once feared club.
The signing of former Dragon, NSW Blues and Australia pivot Trent Barrett was hailed as the beginning of a new era.
No more placing blame on former coaches or CEO’s. No more excuses. Look forward, not backwards.
Bulldogs fans can be forgiven for brushing this off as something they’d seen before, but earlier this morning, something changed.
The Bulldogs announced the signing of former Roosters and Sharks halfback Kyle Flanagan on a three-year deal. In doing so they placed the first major piece in the rebuilding puzzle. Suddenly there looks to be light at the end of the kennel.
With all due respect to Origin winger Nick Cotric, who’s signing to play centre at the Bulldogs I expect to ultimately be successful, the Flanagan signing shapes are far more monumental.
Let me pour water on the fire in the comments right now, young Flanno is not Cooper Cronk or Luke Keary. He’s not going to completely reshape the Bulldogs in a matter of weeks. Sorry Dogs fans, you won’t be winning the title in 2021.
That said, this is the PERFECT signing considering the situation the Dogs currently find themselves in.
He’s a supremely talented young halfback with a good head on his shoulders, who can kick goals and comes at a reasonable price.
With all due respect to Kieran Foran, he sums up the kind of knee-jerk, non value for money signings the Dogs have made over the years. A quick fix based on past form rather than situation.
Foran was routinely the Dogs best player when fit, however he came to the club with a string of injuries and off field distractions that ultimately saw him exit the Dogs having severely underdelivered.
He also commanded the better part of a million dollars despite being unavailable just as often as he lined up.
Kyle Flanagan is a different breed. No, he certainly doesn’t bring with him the pedigree of the former title-winning Foran, but he brings with him everything that the Dogs lack right now.
Flanagan was well on track to become the NRL’s leading points scorer in 2020 prior to his shock demotion. Yes, the fact that he has the likes of Keary, Tedesco, Manu and Morris (x2) scoring tries for fun allows him to slot conversions and rack up the points, but his try scoring abilities and the ease in which he split the posts made him a genuine weapon.
The Roosters, hardly known for their patience, have opted to move away from the Toyota Cup record point scorer. For the life of me I can’t see why they moved on, but at this point I believe Trent Robinson has earned the benefit of the doubt.
The Chooks loss is CERTAINLY the Dogs gain as they now have their long term halfback. He immediately offers them attacking flair that the club has lacked for many years.
He has the speed, footwork and creativity that no one in the Dogs 2020 side could match. Again, Foran was excellent, but he’s not going to bust sides open, take intercepts or run 70+ metres.
Flanagan immediately becomes the Bulldogs first choice kicker. In 2020 the Dogs bounced the kicking tee between Averillo, Meaney, Holland, and Wakeham. No more worries in that department.
He also provides a composed kicking game, well beyond his years and relative inexperience. Spending a year and an off-season with Luke Keary had to be nothing less than priceless. That now translates to the Dogs.
He now has Finals experience after playing two matches with the Roosters earlier this month. Despite the over reaction from Roosters fans, Flanagan’s only crime in this finals series was not being Cooper Cronk.
Despite a lack of success recently, the Dogs set up will also provide a better atmosphere for the youngster. There is no immediate expectations for success, nor does he have to fill the jersey recently occupied by one of the top two halfbacks of the modern era.
No, he won’t have the weapons he had at Bondi, but in Nick Cotric, Will Hopoate and a host of talented players being linked to the club, he’s hardly heading into battle unarmed.
Most importantly of all though, Flanagan provides the first piece of a long-term puzzle for success. He’s the team’s number seven for the next three years which allows them to recruit around him.
If the Dogs can land Matt Burton for 2021, then they suddenly have a young and super talented halves combination to build around. If they can land Josh Addo Carr as reported, then watch out. Hopoate is a skillful operator and should provide great assistance to his young number seven.
As long as Dogs fans don’t fall into the Roosters trap and expect him to replace a probable immortal within six months, I think we’re going to look back on this signing as the first major step in a successful Dogs rebuild.