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Opinion

Canterbury's greatest NRL team

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Roar Guru
27th October, 2020
100
1528 Reads

Winners of eight grand finals, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have been one of the great NRL franchises.

They have enthralled fans with the Entertainers and the Dogs of War. The amount of quality forwards that don’t make this team showcase the club’s great nous for producing big men. The mighty blue-and-white line up as follows.

1. Les Johns
14 caps for Australia, 16 for NSW
One of the greats from the ’60s, Johns was the Bulldogs’ first ever superstar. His high football IQ and ability to pop up out of nowhere and his great defence made him the Bulldogs’ best ever number one. His selection at fullback in the 1960s team of the century over Graeme Langlands shows how good he was. He was the first inductee in the Bulldogs’ Hall of Fame as well.

2. Hazem El Masri (goal kicker)
One cap for Australia, one for NSW, NRL all-time leading point scorer
El Masri may have been pretty short and not really fast for a winger, but that didn’t stop him from being the NRL’s all-time top point scorer, until his record was later broken by Cameron Smith. He was the greatest goal kicker in rugby league. It even sounds more phenomenal when you consider that he started goal kicking in his fourth year. He possessed a remarkable ability to finish tries, and was great at reading defences and shutting down attacking raids.

3. Josh Morris
Six caps for Australia, 15 caps for NSW, two-time centre of the year
Josh Morris earns a spot in this team due to his blistering speed, which made him one of the league’s best try scorers. His greatest strength, however, is his amazing defensive capability. His large frame has made him a rock in defence and he has been the main culprit keeping Greg Inglis very quiet in multiple Origins.

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

4. Nigel Vagana
37 caps for NZ, two-time centre of the year
Vagana played for numerous teams but he was at his best when he was with the Bulldogs, where in one game he scored five tries. Vagana was a very strong centre and had one of the most scintillating steps in the game. His 37 caps for New Zealand show his consistency over a long period of time.

5. Chris Anderson
12 caps for Australia, four caps for NSW
Perhaps best known as premiership-winning coach, Chris Anderson was a mainstay on the Bulldogs’ wing for over 200 games. He was a jack-of-all-trades player who was super reliable and consistent. He was one of the first wingers to roam across the field.

6. Terry Lamb
Eight caps for Australia, seven caps for NSW, seven-time five-eighth of the year, Rothmans Medal winner, Dally M Medal winner
Terry Lamb was one of the greatest five-eighths to ever play the game. His strong desire, powerful will, toughness and unmatched competitiveness made him one of the most successful players in recent memory. He had great creativity and a high football IQ. Having one of the best supporting games ever made him the league’s leading try scorer for multiple seasons, which is quite rare for a five-eighth.

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7. Steve Mortimer (captain)
Nine caps for Australia, nine for NSW, captained NSW to their first State of Origin win
Mortimer was one of the most inspirational leaders and captains the game has ever seen. He was calm under pressure and could control a match with his kicking game and great footy brain. Mortimer was also very strong in defence. His famous cover tackles saved countless tries, and they helped Mortimer to make the ‘Magnificent Seven’ – the top seven halfbacks in the television era.

8. Steve Price
16 caps Australia, 28 caps for Queensland, RLW Player of the Year, prop of the year
The charge-down king, Price was great leader who was robbed of captaining the team in the 2004 grand final. Price was a part of the 1995 grand final-winning team, which beat Manly. He was very young but stood up to the Manly pack, which showed the type of player he was.

9. Jason Hetherington
Two caps for Australia, eight caps for Queenslsnd, hooker of the year
Part of the Bulldogs’ 1995 grand final-winning team, Hetherington was signed to Canterbury as a half but transitioned to hooker where his creativity around the ruck was his key strength. He was unlucky to not play more reps games with great competition in his position.

10. James Graham
41 caps for England, nine for Great Britain, Man of Steel, RLIF prop of year, prop of the year
The British Bulldog is one of the greatest English players to play in the NRL. He had toughness and superb ball skills for a prop. His passing before the line made him of the best big men in the game. However Graham’s greatest asset was his will to win, which seemed to descend upon his teammates.

James Graham after being knocked out

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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11. David Gillespie
19 Australia caps, 15 for NSW
He was known for his hard-hitting ability. He was able to shore up defences and smash the defensive line. He was one of the main reasons why the Dogs of War moniker came about. He had the rare ability to attack with his defence, with brutal hits. He made his side of the field very difficult to score on.

12. Sonny Bill Williams
12 caps for NZ, RLIF player of the year
Despite how many Bulldogs fans may disagree due to the way he left the Dogs, there is no doubt he is the most talented and physically gifted player to wear the Bulldogs jersey. He had the ball skills of a half. He was almost unstoppable to tackle when running at full speed. He had incredible offloading ability. Plus he had his signature shoulder charges. He could change a game with or without that ball. Williams had it all. It’s a shame he went to rugby union as he could have been one of the greatest players in rugby league history.

13. Darren Smith
12 caps for Australia, 25 caps for Queensland, centre of the year
He was a wonderful attacking player who could play in the backs. Smith was even leading try scorer in 1998, albeit with the Broncos. Known for his headgear and dummy, Smith is one of the most unheralded players in his era.

Bench: Ben Barba, Willie Mason, Peter Tunks, Paul Kelly.

Coach: Warren Ryan

Barba had probably the greatest individual season of a Bulldog so he merits selection. Clive Churchill medalist Willie Mason and Peter Kelly bring great punch off the bench.

The forward pack is simply brutal, true to the Dogs of War. Are there any more scary back-rowers to face than ‘Cement’ and SBW? This team will be stout defensively on the edge as well with Morris and El Masri, who excel at shutting down attacking raids with Les Johns being a great cover fullback.

If it’s a close game you have the greatest goal kicker in El Masri to kick clutch conversions. The team will have a great halfback in Mortimer guiding them around the paddock. Throw in Lamb, who will have the defence on high alert, and you can imagine him running off Darren Smith or a great offload from Williams. Mason, Kelly and Tunks ensure there is no let-off when the starters take a break, while Ben Barba will be an absolute nightmare off the bench, especially if he brings his 2012 form.

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This Bulldogs team is well equipped to go to war. The real question is will anyone else be willing to do so?