The Roar
The Roar

Advertisement

Canterbury Bulldogs 2015 season review

Moses Mbye of the Bulldogs. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
Roar Guru
5th October, 2015
12
1695 Reads

Following their second grand final appearance in three years, which resulted in yet another crushing defeat, the Canterbury Bulldogs squad was given a sizeable shake-up and an energising injection of youth.

The Bulldogs were widely considered to haev overachieved in 2014, but the reshuffle of personnel only heightened expectations of the blue and white faithful as they strived to go one better in 2015.

While the loss of the beloved and experienced Michael Ennis to the Sharks initially cast a shadow over the club’s fortunes, the arrival of Brett Morris, Michael Lichaa and Curtis Rona quickly filled the gaping hole.

Brett Morris joined brother Josh at the Bulldogs in 2015, shifting from both the Dragons and the wing to take up an important role at fullback, providing the blinding speed they lacked in previous years.

Lichaa, meanwhile, was essentially a straight swap with Ennis, arriving from the Sharks to grab a full-time role at hooker for the first time in his career, with the highly rated youngster filling his predecessor’s shoes nicely.

Rona, a tall and speedy winger, arrived from the Cowboys and had an instant impact, scoring the second most tries in the NRL with 22.

After a bumpy opening, the season’s turning came after the Dogs lost four from five – little surprise considering the players absent. They drew a line in the sand in Round 11 on a cold Canberra night when, without NSW Origin stars Josh Jackson, David Klemmer, Josh Morris, Brett Morris and Trent Hodkinson (some of whom were only absent due to injury or suspension), the Bulldogs exploded out of the blocks to gain an early 24-point lead, before Canberra pulled the game out of the jaws of defeat to lock the scores at 34-all. A miracle sideline field goal from Josh Reynolds separated the two sides, although a try from the kickoff to Moses Mbye made for a prettier scoreline.

Despite an inconsistent middle portion of the season, they finished in red-hot form with six straight wins, yet only barely escaped with a golden point victory over the Dragons in Week 1 of the finals.

Advertisement

Certainly, it was a less-than-impressive victory and wouldn’t have inspired any confidence within the playing group.

Against the Roosters they started hard and fast, but were unable to keep pace throughout the 80 minutes, their season withering away in a 38-12 loss.

The best of
The most inspiring and exciting moment in the Bulldogs’ 2015 season was their Round 16 game agains the Melbourne Storm – at Belmore Sports Ground!

For the first time in 17 years, the Canterbury club played a top-grade game at their spiritual home in front of a jam-packed crowd of over 17,000 (and that’s not including those peering from treetops, balconies and milk crates).

It drew a special effort from the players, particularly Klemmer, who tore the game wide open with a handful of devastating runs, before the crowd began chanting Josh Reynolds’ name in a desperate plea for coach Des Hasler to inject the homegrown product into the game.

In a heartwarming moment, Hasler succumbed to the crowd’s wish, allowing the human embodiment of Belmore to enjoy the 20-4 victory.

The worst of
No surprises for the most devastating part of season 2015. After opening the season with three wins from their opening four games, including a golden-point victory over the Tigers, the Bulldogs’ season took an enormous blow on one of the most controversial days in NRL history.

Advertisement

On the annual Good Friday clash between the Bulldogs and Rabbitohs, the former held a one-point advantage in the dying moments of the game, before James Graham charged down an Adam Reynolds field-goal attempt, collecting his legs along the way. Without doubt it was unintentional, but dangerous nonetheless, and the Bulldogs were penalised, allowing South Sydney to kick a penalty goal and win.

Graham and fellow bookend Klemmer burst with rage, yelling profanities at the referee, leading to bottle-throwing from fans and lengthy suspensions for both players.

To add injury to insult, Brett Morris went down with a long-term hamstring injury in the final moment of the game.

Player of the year
A sentimental favourite to win this award, Frank Pritchard enjoyed perhaps his best season in the NRL. Playing 104 games for the club since 2011, Pritchard had found a home at the Bulldogs, but amid salary cap issues volunteered to take up a smaller contract in the Super League to relieve pressure.

From Round 1 his form was brilliant, with his enormous edge-running proving near uncontainable, and his combination with centre Josh Morris and winger Curtis Rona proving fruitful throughout the year.

Rookie watch
Lichaa, Rona, Damien Cook and Shaun Lane all shone throughout various stages of 2015. While Rona managed to catch a try-scoring disease of some sort, courtesy of centre partner Josh Morris, Lichaa’s growing presence in attack and sturdy defence showed why the Sharks were devastated with his departure.

When Lichaa’s season prematurely ended due to a broken ankle, Cook grabbed his opportunity with both hands, showing off blinding speed to prove he was more than just a fill-in. Lane meanwhile, was a mainstay of the bench, with his tall, lanky frame proving more than a handful for opposition defences.

Advertisement

Coach’s report card
Des Hasler has enjoyed a wealth of success since his high-profile move from the Sea Eagles in 2012, making the grand final both that year as well as 2014. While the premiership window could be closing with the loss of Hodkinson and Pritchard, Hasler has done well to keep his side contending for the premiership through constant renewal of their roster.

He is, of course, in no danger of losing his job, but the Bulldogs are still demanding that elusive premiership.

Need more from
With no backup halves of note, Mbye and Reynolds go into 2016 with security of their starting position in the 6 and 7 jumpers. Contracted to the club until the end of 2016, a number of clubs have already engaged in a bidding war Mbye’s services following his outstanding start to the season. Once Hodkinson’s season ended, however, Mbye was forced to take on the responsibility of the starting halfback, but was largely unable to, with his combination with the loose cannon that is Reynolds too raw to deliver success.

Likely 17 for 2016
1. Brett Morris
2. Curtis Rona
3. Josh Morris
4. Tim Lafai
5. Sam Perrett
6. Josh Reynolds
7. Moses Mbye
8. Aiden Tolman
9. Michael Lichaa
10. James Graham
11. Josh Jackson
12. Tony Williams
13. Greg Eastwood

14. Sam Kasiano
15. David Klemmer
16. Tim Browne
17. Shaun Lane

close