Oh god, I have to do this don’t I?
As the resident Doggies supporter, I’ve been tapped on the shoulder to provide a season preview for them but, as anyone who read Nick’s Warriors preview, sometimes a supporter doing these can be a bit painful (and he wrote that article BEFORE the RTS bombshell!)
The Bulldogs have long been one of the premier NRL clubs, from their legendary teams in the 80s, to the never-say-die 94-04 editions which tended to punch well above their weight class. The Des Hasler era brought success as well, with a long streak of top four finishes and two Grand Final appearances, but the club culture was called into question as the outsider (Hasler) clashed with Bulldogs lifers (just about everyone else).
So, what does every club do when an outsider has failed? Why, appoint a club stalwart as coach of course!
The irony is that Dean Pay would’ve been the perfect Hasler prop forward – tough as hell with a huge motor and plenty of passing ability. The NRL has moved on from that once-innovative style, so how will the Doggies go this year?
Gains: Fa’amanu Brown (Sharks – 2019), Kieran Foran (Warriors – 2020), Ofahiki Ogden (Warriors – 2019), Clay Priest (Raiders – 2019), Aaron Woods (Wests Tigers – 2021), Jeremy Marshall-King (Wests Tigers – 2018), Mason Cerruto (Panthers – 2018), Moses Suli (Wests Tigers – 2020), John Olive (Bulldogs – 2019)
Losses: Brad Abbey (Raiders), James Graham (Dragons), Sam Kasiano (Storm), Richard Kennar (Rabbitohs), Tyrone Phillips (Panthers), Josh Reynolds (Wests Tigers), Craig Garvey, Chase Stanley (released), Brenko Lee (Titans).
1 Moses Mbye, 2 Brett Morris, 3 Josh Morris, 4 Will Hopoate, 5 Marcelo Montoya, 6 Kieran Foran, 7 Matt Frawley, 8 Aaron Woods, 9 Michael Lichaa, 10 David Klemmer, 11 Josh Jackson, 12 Raymond Faitala-Mariner, 13 Adam Elliott. Interchange: 14 Fa’amanu Brown, 15 Danny Fualalo, 16 Aiden Tolman, 17 Francis Tualau. Reserves: 18 Clay Priest, 19 Josh Cleeland, 20 Reimis Smith, 21 Rhyse Martin
Note: Taken from NRL.com
Yuck, did you read that likely 17? If so, why did you come to this section expecting something? At best, a few Bulldogs represent good value at their price.
Aaron Woods FRF ($557,100)
Yep this is the team’s SC gun, folks. Sigh.
Woods averages in the past four seasons have been 58, 56, 57 and 58 minutes and 61, 59, 61 and 63 points. Not terrible by any means but there is no growth potential and no mystery about what you’re getting here. Woods is the missionary position of Supercoach options. So, if that’s your kind of thing…
Kieran Foran 5/8 ($392,100)
Foran has had brief flashes of Supercoach relevance but that has been more wishful thinking than anything sustained. He has failed at both of his past two stops – spectacularly at Parramatta and sadly at the Warriors. Even at his peak several years ago his game didn’t lend himself to Supercoach relevance.
Some have speculated that being the primary creative player will provide more opportunities to score attacking points. If you ignore all the historical evidence to the contrary, then perhaps. But I can’t help thinking that the same people who talked themselves into Chris Sandow three years running are the ones talking Foran up (in a “he’ll come good this time, for sure!” kind of way). Hard pass.
Michael Lichaa HOK ($361,900)
Podcast listeners or those who follow me on Twitter (@surgebuster) may recall that I, along with most Bulldogs fans (and Josh Reynolds), weren’t shy at expressing disappointment over Lichaa’s struggles to pass right-to-left last year, which were seemingly getting worse by the week.
After yet another game of multiple forward-pass-from-dummy-half infringements, young Michael’s dad decided to waddle into the debate on Twitter. He remains, to this day, the only person I’ve ever had to block. If only his son displayed that much dedication to learning the basics of the game, eh?
So why is he a sleeper? On the off chance that Hasler really did have a ray gun that robbed hookers of the ability to pass? No, because there’s a decent chance that Pay will ask him to run with the ball a lot more and take the pressure of his forwards, whose early set predictability was woeful last year.
He’s priced at a 40 average and has proven in the past that, given minutes, that is the bottom of the range of his scoring. Lichaa’s 80-minute prospects are also helped by ongoing rumours that Fa’amanu Brown isn’t impressing in preseason. There isn’t much value at the top of the HOK position, so anyone looking for a contrary play to Cam Smith could do worse than rolling the dice hoping the Bulldogs and their hooker are set for a bounce back year.
Moses Mbye HLF,FLB ($382,000)
Very likely the only Bulldog I might start with this year, the jack-of-all-trades Mbye is set for a full year at a position that will make the most of his running and ability as a secondary playmaker. Miscast as the primary creative force last year, his struggles were symptomatic of the team’s slide into irrelevance.
Strong, fast and skillful, look for him to profit off Foran’s short ball and also in space. I’m tipping a big year for Mbye, although I can understand Supercoaches wanting to see it first before committing.
Josh Cleeland HFB,5/8 ($164,600)
Slim pickings for rookies at the Doggies – so much so that a 26-year-old journeyman is the man most likely. To be fair Cleeland impressed in NSW Cup last year, just not enough to displace Matt “no runs in 80 minutes” Frawley in the 17. That sound you just heard was every Bulldogs supporter’s shoulders slumping, eyes closing and head slowly shaking from side to side.
No Nick Cotrics at Belmore this year. Not even a Jayden Brailey or Brian Kelly. Hell, I’d take a Ryley Jacks at this point! If the team falls out of contention, look for some young blood to get a run in the last few rounds of the year. At this stage, the most promising youngsters coming through at the club, such as Zac Saddler, might not be for 2018.