The 2017 season was a strange one for Canterbury, consistently in the headlines and for all the wrong reasons.
I still am baffled by the decision to let James Graham go. He is one of rugby league’s best players, but the Dogs’ loss is the Dragons’ gain.
Will Kieran Foran regain the form that saw him reach the game’s heights with Manly or do we see the Foran of the Eels and Warriors? Only time will tell.
I won’t even go into the Des Hasler situation – what a mess.
Still, 2017 season could prove to be a hiccup, while 2018 does seem to be a year of promise. Could they win the title? Possibly, but doubtful.
Regardless, fan should try not to get too frustrated – you’re lucky that your team will be there or thereabouts most seasons.
I’m not sure any team will dominate like the Dogs and the Eels did in the 1980s, with four titles from five grand finals. But unlike Parramatta, the Canterbury wanted to reach the pinnacle again.
The 1995 held so much promise, and was to be the start of rugby league’s superiority as a sport. That didn’t happen. Rugby union went professional, and that game has seen endless growth – internationally at least – while our game fought within itself and experienced nothing but turmoil.
During the Super League era, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs felt that there were too many Sydney teams and they were better and more professional than others. To be honest, they were. So they joined Super League.
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So, when the Dogs matched up against the raging favourites Manly in the 1995 grand final, it was not just about these two teams. It was about the ARL and Super League. The underdogs surprised many with a victory.
Talk to Manly fans, and you will hear about the forward pass and the seventh tackle try – correct and valid points. But what is also true is that the men in blue and white took home the last Winfield Cup.
In 1998, peace had been achieved, and as the Dogs charged into the grand final, confirming their place as September specialists. They took a champion Broncos outfit to halftime but could not keep pace, as Brisbane stormed home winners.
From here, the Bulldogs’ lust for continued success brought shame to the game. The administration was to blame, but the salary cap scandal in mid-2002 broke the hearts of players and fans alike, and denied the club its chance in the sun… But not for long.
In 2004, the competition saw the two most potent teams of the previous couple of seasons compete: the Dogs versus the Roosters, an epic contest. The slippery conditions was not conducice to the best quality of football, but a thrilling battle ensued nonetheless.
When the siren sounded, the Bulldogs had won the title.
Once more, the club continues to chase titles and they usually get what they wants. Des Hasler took them to two grand finals, but they didn’t win, which was not good enough. Maybe Dean Pay will bring what they so desperately desire.
However, for a club with such a proud history, they only averaged 14,039 fans per game in 2017, with only 18,416 members. The season had many wondering what the club was thinking, but if you take the records from the 1980s onwards, this organisation is far and away the most successful of all the Sydney sides.
There are other measures for support – sponsorship, leagues club earnings and total revenue – but can Bulldogs fans please explain why their club doesn’t have the highest average attendance or the largest membership base, at least for Sydney clubs?
First season: 1935
Titles: eight (1938, 1942, 1980, 1984, 1985, 1988, 1995, 2004)