Despite the Bulldogs’ lowly position on the ladder in 2021, the past week of activity suggests there is something to be excited for in 2022.
It started on Sunday night with the announcement that Phil Gould was joining the club as their general manager of football.
Gould is one of the most influential people in rugby league. Given his time as a player, coach and commentator, he wields tremendous power and is connected to almost everyone of relevance in the game, including Peter V’landys.
While that relationship has apparently soured, with rumours of a falling out in June, it doesn’t change the fact that Gould has the ear of the most powerful people in the game.
In terms of influence, connections and power, having someone like Gould associated with your club is surely a benefit, so it’s no surprise the Bulldogs decided to sign him.
But purely from a football perspective, I’m curious as to why clubs continue to chase Gould.
Many credit Penrith’s current success to the work Gould did with the club’s juniors when he was there between 2011-19.
Certainly, many players shining in the Panthers’ current squad are from that junior nursery, but we are now two years on from when Gould was at the club. How much of what is happening for Penrith on the field right now can be credited to Gould and how much is the result of other factors?
Gould has had other roles since leaving the Panthers, his most recent being as a consultant at the New Zealand Warriors over the last year.
This certainly would have been challenging given the pandemic and Gould’s limited ability to actually spend time with the team, but the Warriors are currently third-last on the ladder. Some of that is due to the pandemic, but not all, and it doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in what Nathan Brown and Gould have been able to do with a talented squad.
I’m also curious to understand how much time Gould actually has to devote to these roles and I ask this question with no knowledge of the scope of Gould’s role or the amount of money that the Bulldogs are paying him.
As discussed on the NRL Boom Rookies podcast this week, Gould is not the only media personality to have taken on a role of significance at a club. For example, recently, we saw Ben Ikin join the Brisbane Broncos as football and performance director. But in contrast to Gould, Ikin has stepped back from his media commitments to focus on his role.
This is not to say that Gould will not devote the necessary time to his new role, merely to highlight different approaches taken by different people. In fact, when you tune into the footy on the weekend, many of the contributors have roles with clubs, although few have roles as important as the one Gould has taken up at Belmore.
The podcast also reminded me that Gould did warn Trent Barrett not to sign with the Bulldogs because of cultural issues at the club. I wonder what has changed now so that Gould feels comfortable taking on this role.
Of course, Gould is not the only big news signing out of Canterbury this week, with Tevita Pangai Junior reportedly set to join the club from 2022.
This was an absolutely necessary signing, because to date, the Bulldogs have not signed any forwards.
I have been left scratching my head in recent weeks when it comes to the player signings the Bulldogs have announced.
Joining in 2022, among others, are Brent Naden, Matt Burton, Josh Addo-Carr and Matt Dufty. Individually, I have no problem with these signings, but it’s a lot of backs and in a squad already featuring the likes of Corey Allan, Nick Cotric and Jake Averillo, I was curious as to where all these new players would fit.
Additionally, this abundance of talent in the backs meant little without a strong forward pack leading the charge, which the blue and white have been lacking in recent seasons.
Pangai Jr will bring much-needed aggression, as well as the ability to offload and create an attacking opportunity out of very little. This is crucial for a team that has struggled to score points over the last two years.
Pangai is the sort of player that a forward pack can be built around and perhaps now that the Bulldogs have signed a couple of backs, they will be on the hunt for more forwards to join Pangai Jr.
Will all these new signings be enough to make the Bulldogs competitive?
What role Gould will play in that success or failure is yet to be seen.