I have been appalled by some of the attitudes expressed and a few of the comments made by so-called Canterbury-Bankstown supporters in 2019.
In an obviously difficult season and with just five wins heading into their match against the Panthers at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday afternoon, the general disappointment of the Bulldogs’ year requires little clarification.
The hurtful reality is that the Bulldogs are pop-guns compared to the howitzers being used by the powerhouses of the competition.
However, despite a somewhat conservative approach and a lack of firepower in attack restricting the Bulldogs’ ability to find the try line consistently against top eight sides, the team has remained committed.
The youthful and under-manned squad has persevered and now looks likely to avoid the wooden spoon after appearing sure things for it early in the season.
This was personified early Saturday evening as the boys in blue and white held on heroically to down one of the pre-season favourites; a team supposedly packed with superstars and destined to win a premiership in the near future.
Phil Gould convinced the entire rugby league community of that ‘fact’ yet in my view, the jury is well and truly still out and in rather panicked discussions as we speak.
What took place at Bankwest spoke volumes of the resilience and fortitude that is ingrained in the walls and corridors of Belmore Sports Ground. The hard fought 16-8 victory gave the Bulldogs their sixth win of the season and reminded everyone of rugby league’s most appropriate hashtag; #proudtobeabulldog.
Rarely has Dean Pay’s team wavered from the task. Sure, the two thumpings at the hands of the Dragons, a recent collapse against the Broncos and the opening round capitulation against the Warriors in New Zealand were disappointing and alarming.
However, the reality is that the Bulldogs have gritted their teeth, exposed their fangs and competed to the best of their ability for much of the 2019 premiership season.
That has been achieved despite the constant questioning of the coaches ability, significant injuries and the undoubted lack of depth and class within the squad.
All and sundry should be reminded of the thoughts of Chris Anderson when the new board took control of the club in the early months of 2018. I spoke to Chris and suggested the salary cap mess that the new board were about to inherit would take four years to fix, he hoped it could be done in three.
The previous board and coach had persisted with Tony Williams, let Damien Cook, Dale Finucane and Tim Lafai go and purchased Aaron Woods in quite possibly the worst decision in the history of the club outside of the original signing of Williams.
At the same time, the powers at be allowed Hasler to repeat the sins of his time at Manly and back end contracts in at attempt to keep a potentially premiership winning team together between 2012 and 2017.
It almost produced the Bulldogs’ 9th premiership, yet also compelled the club to a long period of rebuild when it failed, after it became financially hamstrung and impotent in the recruitment market.
As a last hoorah, the former chairman of the board claimed to have the signatures of James Tedesco and Mitchell Moses on a platter after signing Woods on huge money, then the board over-invested in Kieran Foran despite also having the back ended contracts of some long standing players to finance.
James Tedesco brought those claims into question and the overall package would have been financially unsustainable in any case.
It left the purse strings strained and led to the ‘shopping’ of Josh and Brett Morris, Moses Mbye and Woods himself; all hot on the heels of the farewells to James Graham and Josh Reynolds in the last throes of the previous administration.
All in all, it gutted the club and sent it into a rebuild that should never have been required.
Whilst 2019 has been a battle, the weekend’s win against the Panthers said much about the spirit and fortitude in the playing stocks.
Captain Josh Jackson, Will Hopoate and Aiden Tolman have been tireless each week. Jack Cogger, Nick Meaney, Ofahiki Ogden and Jayden Okunbor have shown promise and Remis Smith, Brandon Wakeham and Chris Smith provide much hope for the future.
Sadly, it hasn’t been enough for many Bulldog fans, more willing to hate and blame rather than acknowledge that the club is in a significant rebuild and looking to the future for success.
Dean Pay has kept the squad united and motivated throughout the season and stands to win another game or two on the run home with a little luck.
The players are committed to the jersey and excited about what the future holds with some new signings already announced and another year of experience added to what is a young team.
Nobody calls out the weaknesses in both attack and defence more than I, however the contextual reasons for the tough period that Canterbury is currently experiencing should never be forgotten.
If you ditched the blue and white, hashtagged ‘Pay out’ or gave up at any point in the season, shame on you. The Bulldogs are on the way back and success is coming sooner rather than later.
A better understanding of the salary cap and the decisions made by the previous board would change many people’s views on what has been a chalenging yet courageous season from the Bulldogs.