Way back in 2006 – on a cold, windy night in Kogarah – the Bulldogs dismantled the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Led by the bash brothers of Willie Mason and Mark O’Meley and the skilfulness of Sonny Bill Williams and Reni Maitua, the Bulldogs put the Dragons to the sword tearing holes through the middle of their ruck and hitting them with such force that each Dragons player was scared to take another hit-up in the game again.
Such a performance was not uncommon for the Bulldogs in that era, they simply sought to beat every team by physically imposing themselves on the opposition. Due to this, the Bulldogs were labelled as ‘Dogs of War’.
In that period the late great Steve Folkes was at the helm. Uncompromising as a player and as a coach, Folkes drove this ‘Dogs of War’ siege mentality into the playing group. The Bulldogs’ forward pack struck fear into the minds of other teams even before matches had started.
Fast forward to September 2019 and it appears the Bulldogs and their coach Dean Pay have revitalised this ‘Dogs of War’ mentality. Yes the Bulldogs won’t be playing finals football, but the past month has highlighted a return to the defence-wins-matches mentality.
Since beating the Sharks on June 30 the Bulldogs have only conceded 20 points or more in two matches – these being against the Roosters and the Broncos. The middle of Dylan Napa, Aiden Tolman, Jeremy Marshall-King, Adam Elliot and Josh Jackson have led the charge, coming quickly out of the line to stifle the opposition’s attack.
The supporting cast of the halves and backline including fullback Dallin Watene-Zelezniak have played their part in defence and provided the creativity necessary for the Bulldogs to strike.
Sure, the current Dogs’ forward pack and team at large is not as imposing or intimidating as the one from that night in Kogorah, but the principles of the ‘Dogs of War’ have returned – turning up for each other, giving 100 per cent effort and winning the game through a strong defence.
The Bulldogs have always performed well with their back against the wall and they will need to continue to do so in the coming years, especially due to the ongoing salary cap restrictions which have hampered their ability to manoeuvre in the player market and improve their roster. However – like Steve Folkes – Dean Pay is front and centre and will ensure that the Bulldogs remain competitive and fight until the very end.
The Bulldogs have not won the competition since 2004 and they have not made the finals for almost four years.
But with the ‘Dogs of War’ back, that could all change in the not too distant future.