I didn’t renew my Bulldogs membership in 2014. The club was on a short-term venture without adequate planning and decisions to maintain health and competitiveness over the medium term.
I wrote about this passionately in 2016, asking some pertinent questions to the coach in the article ‘A letter to Des Hasler from a confused, frustrated Doggies fan’.
Re-reading that article now, it appears to have been pretty close to the mark in terms of what I predicted.
While this potentially presents me with the opportunity to boast, in another way there is nothing to boast about.
Captain Obvious himself may well have strolled through the front door and made a public announcement, such is the sad future prospects of the club under Hasler.
That is exactly what Hasler has done to our great club: morphed them into the obvious. The stacking of the squad with big and increasingly immobile men, a rigid and defensive gameplan that has been superseded by a more expansive and cavalier approach adopted by other clubs, and a pair of halves devoid of creativity and impotent in attack, have all played a role in the awful performances of 2017.
The horrific decision-making at the club over the last five years reads like a footballing train wreck, filled with comeuppance, irony and the bizarre.
Releasing Shaun Lane, after his early form suggested the club had their hands on a potential superstar, and the decision to offload Dale Finucane to Melbourne still make me shake my head.
Expectantly, Finucane goes to Melbourne and under the tutelage of Craig Bellamy, blossoms. Lane threatens to do the same.
The decision to part ways with Tim Lafai was also a mistake and Michael Ennis’ magnificent form and more attacking and expansive role at the Sharks shouldn’t be lost on anyone.
Ennis had the right to visit Des with his ring and inform him that he did have the speed, creativity and attacking prowess to win a competition as a starting hooker, despite his age.
While not knowing the ins and outs of all of these decisions, and accepting the fact that some players may have wished to move on, the pattern of letting quality go only to be replaced by mediocrity is apparent.
Certainly in the case of Ennis, Michael Lichaa had been signed and he was lauded as the future.
For years, the club has let players go. Any successful club has that issue, as consistent success leads to players effectively playing their way out of the team. This makes the recruitment and retention decisions critical, and something at which the Bulldogs have failed dismally.
In nearly 40 years of loyal Dogs supportership, Tony Williams was the laziest and most ineffective player I have seen play in the blue and white. I write about that as well in the piece entitled ‘Tony Williams deservingly dropped for un-Bulldog-like behaviour’, not that it was hard to concoct an argument considering his appalling statistics and form.
The only thing that did, was the $600,000 price tag that Des had used to lure him from Manly. Williams was a winger early on and never played the game as a fringe running forward, a role for which he was employed.
Watching Lichaa throw awful dummy-half passes over the first month of the season has been painful. The ball loops, lacking velocity, and puts enormous pressure on the receiver – who, mind you, is limited in talent and options to begin with.
Let’s not even talk about the decision to sign a solid and safe fullback without the attacking flair required to fill one of the most important roles on the field. The ineffectiveness of Will Hopoate in the mysterious ‘spine’ that dominates talk on team structure has only been matched by his absences on Sundays.
I take my kids to church on a weekend and have no religious gripe whatsoever, but how can they lock up such a considerable part of the salary cap in a player who takes no part in Sunday matches? It is laughable.
Josh Morris should have been moved on three to four years ago. Despite excellent defensive efforts in Origin football, he has been on one leg for some time now, and the spark that his brother is hanging on to just isn’t there anymore.
Greg Eastwood should have met the same fate. While a good servant of the club, his mere appearance this year says enough about his form. He looks slovenly, appears slow and his poor defensive reads against the Warriors in Round 3 were blatant.
To say I nearly drove off the road when I heard the news of the offer to Aaron Woods could be the understatement of the year.
Watching his appalling marker defence against the Raiders two weeks back just reminded me why I see him as one of the most overrated players in the game.
Four years of Woods would just about do my head in. I don’t think I could watch.
Once again, I wrote openly about the tough period ahead for the club in October 2016, in ‘Whatever happens to Des, things look grim for the Dogs’.
Whatever is really going on at the club, I hope the people responsible are proud. Proud of the fact that we have finally become just like everybody else. The one thing the Bulldogs always did was remain a little above this nonsense.
Hasler’s reign has seen the squad suffer a slow decline and become an also-ran.
As a writer, I am pleased my articles captured accurately at the time. However, as a supporter it breaks my heart to see the Bulldogs behaving and performing like they don’t care, don’t know how to win, and don’t want to get better.