As it stands right now the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs sit in last place on the NRL ladder. Did any of us really expect any different?
Not really. But that still doesn’t mean it’s inexcusable.
When club legend Dean Pay was hired in the 2017 off-season he was touted as saying he was going to bring back the ‘dogs of war’, a side that never gives up and will grind it out with you until the 80th minute. And while they might do that in games today, the players exerting that effort simply aren’t good enough.
If I were an opposition player, not one of the Bulldogs players standing in front of me would threaten men. That may sound harsh, but it’s true. Will Hopoate has flashes of class, but it doesn’t shine through enough. Josh Jackson tries his best but is limited in attack, while Dallin Watene-Zelezniak can run hard all day but will still drop the ball nine times out of ten.
The Dogs simply don’t have enough talented players on their roster. They currently sit in 16th place in the competition in terms of points, tries, line breaks and tackle breaks. In the modern NRL good luck trying to grind it out when you can’t score any points.
Looking ahead to next year, it’s rumoured the Bulldogs have about $3 million in their salary cap they are willing to throw at players they think can make a significant improvement to their side. In this article I’ll break down my top five players I think the Bulldogs should target for the 2021 season and why they would make an astute signing.
1. David Fifita (Brisbane Broncos)
He’s the man it seems every NRL club wants. Fifita, still only 20 years old, looks to be the game’s next big star. With almost every club lining up to sign the talented youngster, he would become a welcome addition to Belmore. His canny ability to constantly break the line and find an offload would provide handsome rewards for a half like Kieran Foran. Foran may seem broken and rundown to some experts, but his touches of class and brilliance is enough to show that all he needs is some talent around him to get back to his best.
That is exactly what Fifita can offer. In the two games he has played this year he has scored one try, run for an average of 150 metres, made 57 tackles and broke 15 tackles. His talent is unmatched and would immediately turn the Dogs around. If I am Canterbury, Fifita is at the top of my list.
2. John Bateman (Canberra Raiders)
For the right price John Bateman in 2021 could go anywhere. After it was confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that 2020 would be his last year with the Raiders, rumours already began to grow as to where Bateman could land. And of course, with cash to splash, the Bulldogs were one of the teams mentioned. And why wouldn’t they be?
The reigning Dally M second rower of the year burst onto the scene last year with the Green Machine as he was a driving force in their push to the NRL grand final. Not only does Bateman have great footwork in attack for a big man, but his defence is rock solid and would be a handy addition to any defensive unit.
3. Josh Addo-Carr (Melbourne Storm)
The man they dub ‘The Fox’ is just what the Bulldogs need. A limp attack that doesn’t showcase any real flair or spark, Addo-Carr can provide the fix immediately. The current New South Wales and Australian representative has been granted an early release from the final year of his contract with the Melbourne Storm to return to Sydney to live closer to his family.
In just 90 first-grade games Addo-Carr has scored 65 tries, with his burning speed a clear advantage over any opposition winger. Give the Fox early ball and he can truly do something special. The Bulldogs would be fools not to chase the fastest man in the game.
4. Nick Cotric (Canberra Raiders)
With John Bateman now confirmed to be leaving the nation’s capital at season’s end, this one may seem a little unlikely. But it doesn’t mean the Bulldogs shouldn’t inquire about the New South Wales representative. Cotric’s ability to play both in the centres and on the wing is extremely valuable for Canberra, who have relied on him in recent years to be a consistent X factor on their left edge. As Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana’s form dipped from week to week, the left edge of Cotric and Jarrod Croker continued to perform and ascend.
Still only 21, Cotric has played 76 games already with 35 tries to his name and has represented both NSW and Australia. His supreme strength and never say die leg drive would prove to be extremely valuable on a Canterbury left edge.
5. Anthony Milford (Brisbane Broncos)
Given his and the Broncos form this year, this may seem the most contentious pick I could have made. But please just hear me out. During the NRL COVID-19 lockout Milford picked up his one-year player option to stay at Brisbane until the end of 2021. However, with his fault wavering and Tom Dearden waiting in the wings, it seems Milford’s time is running out. And what is a contract worth these days anyway?
It may seem risky for a club like the Bulldogs to go out and sign Milford, but why not? At his peak he is one of the most damaging ball players in the competition, and with the right half and coach beside him he can play at his best. With Kieran Foran back to full fitness, I believe he and Milford could try and push the Dogs for their first finals appearance since 2016.
Could it all crash and burn? Yes. But would it cost the Bulldogs? Not really. With Milford’s form dropping, they could sign him for below market value and on a one-to-two-year deal max. It may sound risky, but taking calculated risks is exactly what the Dogs need to do to have any real shot and contending again.