The Chinese zodiac predicts that 2022 will be the year of the tiger, with the next year of the dog not arriving until 2030; however, in the NRL, this may not be the case. The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs will have a significantly better season next year than the Wests Tigers, in my opinion.
The Bulldogs have had a bad run over the last five years, finishing 11th in 2017, 12th for the next two years, 15th last year, and eventually with the wooden spoon in 2021, with only three wins in each of the last two seasons. It’s hardly good enough for an 86-year-old club that has won eight championships and finished second ten times.
To their credit, rather than waiting for a favorable wind change like some clubs, the Bulldogs have gone to work. They’ve not only made some big signings by getting rid of their deadwood (I’m looking at you, Dylan Napa and Adam Elliott) and bringing in rugby league influencer Phil Gould to give them more direction and clout, but they’ve also brought in rugby league influencer Phil Gould to give them more direction and clout.
So, how do you think the Bulldogs will line up next year? Most of their 30 squad positions have been filled as of the last time I checked, though there is some concern about the health of young Tui Katoa, so there may be an opportunity to add a couple more players before next year.
From the lineup collected thus far, this appears to be their finest team for next year. The newly recruited players have been tagged with an asterisk and aren’t mentioned because I’m assuming they’ll all be in the Bulldogs’ top 17 at some point.
1. Matt Dufty*
2. Josh Addo-Carr*
3. Brent Naden*
4. Aaron Schoupp — Schoupp cleans up after himself, is a natural center, and tackles as hard as he runs the ball. He has a good chance of earning a regular spot on the Bulldogs’ defensive line next season.
5. Nick Cotric — Despite the fact that he will only be 24 years old next season, Cotric already has 100 first-grade games under his belt, as well as appearances for both NSW and Australia. Next year, he has a chance to reclaim his status as one of the top wingers in the game.
6. Matt Burton*
7. Jake Averillo – The Bulldogs’ halfback position remains a problem, and Averillo appears to be the strongest option, with Brandon Wakeham and Kyle Flanagan likely behind him in the pecking order. As the season goes, Bailey Biondi-Odo may become a viable alternative.
8. Paul Vaughan*
9. Joshua Cook*
10. Luke Thompson – One of the Bulldogs’ best forwards who has yet to show his best on a consistent basis. He should emerge as the team’s forward leader next year if he can get his discipline under control.
11. Jack Hetherington – A big, aggressive ball runner, Hetherington’s appearance in the second row against Wests in the Bulldogs’ final game of the season should be a harbinger of things to come. Hetherington looked at ease in the back row and possesses the speed and ball skills to make that position his own and wreak havoc out wide.
12. Matt Doorey — Doorey, Joe Stimson, Jackson Topine, Raymond Faitala-Mariner, and Corey Wadell are all candidates for the second back row spot. Faitala-Mariner would be a strong contender if he could put his injuries behind him and gain some consistent game time, but Doorey appears to be the most apparent pick at this point.
13. Josh Jackson — Jackson has been a lone hand for the Bulldogs for much of the previous three years, but at 31, he will likely need to play less minutes next season if he wants to complete the final two years of his contract with the team. He is a motivating leader that works tirelessly for his team.
14. Bailey Biondi-Odo – He had a strong finish to the year and showed some wonderful attacking flair when given the chance. He’s still young and isn’t the most well-known player in the league, so he’ll need to be properly controlled.
15. Tevita Pangai Jr*
16. John Asiata*
17. Ava Seumanufagai — Given the paucity of middle forward options, he’ll likely grab the final bench spot by default. In 2021, however, he has been a solid player for the Dogs.
So, that’s not a horrible team, and it’s certainly a step higher than anything the Dogs will field in 2021. However, there are certain advantages and disadvantages to consider.
•They have veteran outside backs Corey Allan and Jayden Okunbur waiting in the wings for their chance. •They have several versatile backs in the 17 including Naden, Cotric, and Burton, who can all cover more than one position if needed.
•They have a formidable front group with workhorses Vaughan, Jackson, and Thompson, as well as impact players Pangai and Asiata.
•If given the opportunity to play on the edge, Jack Hetherington has the potential to become one of the top edge players in the game.
•Matt Burton is the cream of their spine, but the rest have yet to prove themselves
•Second row alternatives Corey Waddell and Joe Stimson are average at best, so the Dogs may look to new addition Josh Stuckey from the Northern Pride to step up when necessary.
Coach Trent Barrett appears to have gotten his desire in terms of recruiting, and now his task will be to bond these guys into a squad that respects and wants to play for him. In the squad, there are a few interesting people and egos that will need to be managed.
Barrett will have his work cut out for him with players like Vaughan, Pangai, Addo-Carr, Naden, Dufty, and Hetherington. There will undoubtedly be expectations of a turnaround, so getting some early wins will be crucial.
Next season, I believe the Bulldogs will be a force to be reckoned with and will not be relegated to the bottom of the table.