Canterbury Bulldogs 2018 season preview and prediction

Eddie Otto Roar Guru

By Eddie Otto, Eddie Otto is a Roar Guru

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    The Bulldogs will be looking to bounce back in 2018 after missing the finals for the first time since 2011 last season.

    With a new head coach and a new board many fans are optimistic, but could more stormy times be ahead?

    Last season
    11th, ten wins, 14 losses, 360 points scored, 455 points against

    Last five seasons
    Sixth, seventh (made grand final), fifth, seventh, 11th

    2017 review

    The Bulldogs struggled mightily in 2017, missing the finals for the first time since 2011. They managed to win their last three games, however 11th spot probably flatters the Bulldogs considering the putrid brand of football they played for the majority of the season.

    The Dogs scored just 360 points last year – the worst in the NRL at just 15 per game. The Bulldogs were unwatchable for large parts of the season, with a clunky spine and slow forwards playing well behind the advantage line, in an attack that constantly never threatened the opposition.

    Dean Pay Bulldogs coach

    (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

    They tackled hard however they looked like a roster and a club in need of a major rebuild, with several players either on too much money or over the hill. Des Hasler paid for it. Despite leading the club to two grand finals, he was sacked in what proved a bitter fallout.

    2018 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)

    2018 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).

    The Bulldogs have landed a couple of big names in the off-season, with five-eighth Kieran Foran and front rower Aaron Woods.

    While I’m not convinced Woods is the sort of player they needed desperately, he is a very good front rower who regularly churns out over 150m per game.

    Foran, to me, is a massive risk, given this is his fourth club in four years. He had a patchy season last year with the Warriors and, with his off field dramas, he has had persistent hamstring injuries over the past couple of years.

    He originally signed for the club when Des Hasler was coach, so I think there is a lot on his plate, and a number of questions to answer for a guy who has not produced anywhere near his Manly form since he left the Club at the end of 2014. While James Graham and Josh Reynolds didn’t play their best football last season they were extremely popular and respected teammates and I think they will leave a large void at the club.

    James Graham congratulated after scoring

    (Photo by Colin Whelan copyright ©

    Head coach – Dean Pay
    Dean Pay returns home, in some respects, to the club he played 108 games for between 1989 and 1995, to make his debut as a coach. Pay has spent several seasons as an assistant in the NRL, mainly to Ricky Stuart, and now gets his chance at a turbulent time in the Bulldogs’ history.

    There has been a lot of feel good factor, at least with the Bulldogs fans, in regards to Pay’s appointment, after Hasler appeared to have the side playing an outdated and clunky style of football over the past few years.

    The Bulldogs looked a stale side that had burnt out, however Pay will really have his work cut out for him with the spine one of the most incomplete in the NRL.

    Most important player – Kieran Foran
    Clearly Foran is the Bulldogs’ most important player, as their halves were very ordinary last season. Foran, at his best, plays very direct and challenges the line, and the Bulldogs need someone with a bit of personality to take control.

    However, Foran will be under pressure, and the likes of Moses Mbye and Matt Frawley are hardly going to take much pressure off him. Given his large contract, the Dogs’ faithful will be expecting Foran to lead this side into the finals.

    2018 likely side
    1. Moses Mbye, 2. Brett Morris, 3. Josh Morris, 4. Will Hopoate, 5. Marcelo Montoya, 6. Matt Frawley, 7. Kieran Foran, 8. Aaron Woods, 9. Michael Lichaa, 10. David Klemmer, 11. Josh Jackson, 12. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 13. Adam Elliott Bench – 14. Fa’amanu Brown, 15. Danny Fualalo, 16. Greg Eastwood, 17. Aiden Tolman

    2018 Verdict – 14th (7-9 wins)
    I see the Bulldogs having their worst season in close to a decade here. Despite the feel good vibe of a new coach and new board, it hard to ignore an average roster in key positions in the spine.

    I think they really needed a James Tedesco-type signing to ignite their backline and take pressure off their halves and hooker.

    I don’t think Kieran Foran is the player he once was, and I think the pressure might be too much for him at Canterbury.

    The spine looks weak to me, with plenty of question marks over Moses Mbye at fullback and an honest journeyman like Matt Frawley at halfback. I don’t like their outside backs as, while I think they will be strong defensively, I think the Morris boys are past their best, and Will Hopoate is not exactly the quickest either.

    The Dogs have a pretty good forward pack at full strength, and that is clearly the strength of this side.

    However they will most likely have to deal without Woods, Dave Klemmer and Josh Jackson at Origin time, which will not be an easy task. Throw in a rookie coach and the salary cap dramas that saw a number of players, including inspirational players James Graham and Josh Reynolds, asked to move on and there are more stormy times ahead for this side. I see them winning only about 7-9 games and finishing in the bottom four.

    Eddie’s ladder
    14th: Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
    15th: Wests Tigers
    16th: New Zealand Warriors

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    The Crowd Says (28)

    • Roar Rookie

      February 24th 2018 @ 8:12am
      Joe said | February 24th 2018 @ 8:12am | ! Report

      100% agree that Foran is the keay this year. The other key is how Mybe performs at fullback. I am prepared to say if Foran stays fit and on the field and if Mybe goes ok at fullback this team will make the eight. Lichaa looks like he has been given license to run which will open up opportunities. Mybe with his speed is a much better attacking threat from fullback than Hoppa. There is enough experience between the Morris boys and Hoppa to get the backline moving. I don’t think age is a factor…if Billy Slater at 34 can do what he did last year it comes down to fitness and preparation which I think the Dogs have done this year. From all reports they are now a happy training bunch which makes a big difference. The two biggest deciding factors in their favor are their forward pack with the two Australian props and the likes of Jackson and the second is their defense with the Morris boys, Hoppa, Foran, Jackson…all very good defenders.

      • February 24th 2018 @ 10:46am
        Eddie Otto said | February 24th 2018 @ 10:46am | ! Report

        Joe your right defensively they could have a very strong side. Which maybe I might have underplayed. I just really don’t like their spine. I think Foran is damaged good as harsh as that sounds, and plenty will revolve around him. If he gets back to his best he could turn this side into a Top 8 with their forward pack. However if he goes missing then I think there in a world of trouble.

        • February 24th 2018 @ 1:40pm
          Geoff from Bruce Stadium said | February 24th 2018 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

          I think your dismissing Foran a bit too easily. He was going pretty well with the Eels until his personal problems surfaced. And sure his performances with the Warriors were pretty underwhelming – but so were the performances of a lot of well credentialed Warriors (e.g. Luke and RTS). I’m expecting Foran to bounce back this season. I’m also predicting Blake Austin to rediscover some form at the Raiders and Josh Reynolds to play well for the Tigers.

    • February 24th 2018 @ 8:46am
      Greg Ambrose said | February 24th 2018 @ 8:46am | ! Report

      Foran is an elite player at his best but I wonder if all goes well who would be the top two or three try scorers in this team? Can anyone score more than 10 tries in 2018?

    • February 24th 2018 @ 9:31am
      Albo said | February 24th 2018 @ 9:31am | ! Report

      I tend to agree with your summary Eddie. Their great hopes for the coming year are Foran and coach Dean Pay to somehow turn this aging team’s performances around ? Whilst the coach is as yet untried as a head coach, Foran has offered little in the past 4 years apart from injury and personal demons ? Too many queries for me to get too excited about their prospects this year. Not sure the repeating of that old “family club” narrative will increase their chances. They have a solid pack of forwards but a very one dimensional style. They have an ordinary spine with all players here coming off poor 2017 form, and their outside backs have experience but I see no likely upside or improvements likely here apart from perhaps winger Montoya who looks a likely improving type. To me they seem in desperate need of a complete rebuild with some new blood whether coming through their juniors or from some smart market purchases. I would be surprised if they get out of the bottom 4 in 2018.

      • Roar Guru

        February 24th 2018 @ 7:29pm
        The Barry said | February 24th 2018 @ 7:29pm | ! Report

        I’d be more worried about your mob if I was you Albo.

        I’m sitting in the stands at Belmore and I’ve just watched the Dogs reserve grade side rough up the full strength Panthers in the first half.

        • February 24th 2018 @ 8:38pm
          JOHNYBULLDOG said | February 24th 2018 @ 8:38pm | ! Report

          Go the mighty Doggies Bazza!

        • February 26th 2018 @ 1:37pm
          Albo said | February 26th 2018 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

          Baz, I am extremely worried about my mob, as I have indicated in plenty of recent posts. !
          I’m just surprised your Doggies didn’t pick up some of the good ones we seem to let go every few months ?

    • February 24th 2018 @ 9:51am
      i miss the force said | February 24th 2018 @ 9:51am | ! Report

      spoon fight with the tigers and titans

      • February 24th 2018 @ 10:35am
        Bradds said | February 24th 2018 @ 10:35am | ! Report

        Dogs, Warriors and Canberra to battle for the spoon. Common theme being ordinary or unproven coaches and underperforming spines. Cleary is too good an operator and they will go close to making the eight with a few journeymen. Ricky might do the usual implode thing after a while at the one place. They will sorely miss their rake

    • February 24th 2018 @ 10:14am
      Oingo Boingo said | February 24th 2018 @ 10:14am | ! Report

      Untried coach, question marks over half the team , age a significant factor, new board , heading into the season on the back of a pretty average year …..
      10th or lower , and the only thing that gets them that high , is the fact that there are so many other disfunctional teams in the comp.
      Too many good players for the spoon .

    • February 24th 2018 @ 10:40am
      Paul said | February 24th 2018 @ 10:40am | ! Report

      I think it’s going to be a loooong season if you’re a Doggies fan. I can’t see where they’re going to score points.

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