In what looms as a crucial season in the recent history of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, leadership will be key.
After the administrative trials and tribulations that saw a new board take over the front office in 2018, a salary cap inspired release of numerous club favourites and now new hope, with the discovery of some serious young Bulldog talent, the club is on the dawn of a new era.
So much has changed, yet at the same time, one thing remains very much the same. That constancy lies in the rock upon which the Bulldog pack has been built for over five seasons; representative back rower and captain, Josh Jackson.
Having just turned 28 after a recent birthday, Jackson has quietly and efficiently built a reputation as a hard working, resolute and passionate leader. After arriving at the Bulldogs in 2010, having played representative junior football in Newcastle, the Gulgong born Jackson impressed immediately.
It wasn’t just his football that did the talking. Jackson’s leadership qualities were evident as soon as he arrived at Belmore and his two seasons in the NYC saw in excess of fifty games played in the tough and uncompromising style that remains a feature of his play.
The young forward looked a future club captain; a quiet and unassuming man, blessed with the will to compete and win that is possessed by all the greats of the game.
Despite an injury setback, his rise to the captaincy of the club never appeared in doubt and he made his first grade debut late in 2012 and played in the losing grand final team against the Storm.
His meteoric rise continued in 2013, with representative selection for the country team in the annual City vs Country fixture and he earned a spot in the Kangaroo squad for the end of year Four Nations tournament.
State of Origin selection in 2015 was next and 2016 produced a career highlight when Jackson was named as New South Wales player of the series.
As the Bulldogs struggled for wins early in the 2018 season, Jackson’s representative spot looked under threat and was subsequently taken from him. In typical fashion, Jackson was unruffled; preferring to focus on getting the blue and whites back in winning form, despite some of the inevitable struggles that occurred as Dean Pay experimented with youth and inexperience.
Those young players have now benefited from playing under the quietly spoken and highly motivated skipper. Reimis Smith, Adam Elliott, Jeremy Marshall-King, Kerrod Holland and Lachlan Lewis have all taken giant strides under Jackson.
Defending on the right through some of the dark times early in the 2018 season, Jackson was tireless, covering a leaky edge defence that needed a patient, educative and long term approach if it was to improve.
No doubt it hurt Jackson’s representative claims, yet 2019 approaches with a more rounded squad, some exciting new signings and more energy and positivism circling the Bulldogs squad than has been the case for some time.
When interviewed at the 2018 season launch at the Waterview in Bicentennial Park, Jackson was probed to identify some of the key individuals that would stand out for the club. He refused to provide names.
MC Yvonne Sampson pushed harder saying, “Go on Josh, you can say a name.”
Jackson’s answer said a lot about the Bulldogs captain. He looked at the Fox media personality and replied, “No.”
I must admit to laughing. It was so Jackson; understated, blunt yet most importantly, team focused.
For Josh Jackson it is always about the collective and not any personal achievement or recognition. It is the way he leads and the cornerstone of his success.
Quite simply, that selflessness brought him to the club captaincy and will probably see him stay there for quite some time. For Josh Jackson, the club is far bigger than his own achievements and ego.
It is why the fans love, respect and cheer him. Oh captain, my captain.