As most of you know, each week I compile a review of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs’ NRL match and share it among fans.
It is a labour of love born of a lifelong commitment to the club.
This week’s report is a little different. The Bulldogs were crushed by the Roosters on Sunday afternoon at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Crushed 38-12 thanks to a vast difference in class and talent within the playing rosters.
Easts played the match without Luke Keary, James Tedesco and Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. Despite that problematic situation, Boyd Cordner, Latrell Mitchell, Cooper Cronk, Daniel Tupou and Angus Crichton led from the front and outclassed the Dogs.
That list says it all.
After another disappointing loss and a seven tries to two demolition, Bulldog’s fans need to face the simple and hard reality that Canterbury-Bankstown has potentially the weakest and most shallow roster in the NRL.
2019 has seen an ever-increasing level of frustration and anger around the performance of the team, selections and omissions. Sadly, much of the discussion is misguided, ill-informed and unfair on coach Dean Pay and the Board of Directors.
The Bulldogs are in the midst of a significant rebuild off the back of reckless salary cap mismanagement committed by the previous board and coach. It left the club locked into back ended contracts that needed to either be honoured or off-loaded, to free up money for new signings.
Any criticism of the current board is flawed. Just 18 months into a significant rebuild, the course must be stayed. Repairing the damage done is at least a four year proposition.
Manly and Newcastle have lived a similar pain. Count the years from their lowest point and the case studies reveal the realistic time-frame of the difficult road ahead.
Dean Pay has been massacred by some; those intent on questioning his methods and selections. In truth, Pay is somewhat hamstrung without the tools he requires to build a team capable of playing semi-final football.
The team’s effort has been consistent. Even against the Roosters on Sunday the side was committed and valiant despite the lop-sided scoreline. Quite simply, the Roosters’ squad did exactly what it should do against the Bulldogs.
Pay has been seeking combinations. Sure Adam Elliott, Rhyse Martin, Lachlan Lewis and Corey Harawira-Naera have spent time out of the first grade squad.
Yet to this point, nothing has clicked or gelled. Have all his decisions been correct? Perhaps not, yet he has rotated his players; looking at them with an eye to the future.
That approach brought the wonderfully raw young talent Jayden Okunbor into first grade, as it did with Nick Meaney and Jack Cogger. All three have done well, with Okunbor a potential star on the wing.
Chris Smith looks to be the latest player to stake a long term claim for a spot in the Bulldog’s squad.
The challenge for the blue and whites is to now rebuild that squad; maintaining the best of it and sourcing the required missing pieces over the next 18 months.
After the tough and necessary decisions involving the Morris twins, Moses Mybe, Aaron Woods, David Klemmer and the retirement of Greg Eastwood, the squad was stripped of experience.
Moreover, the failure of the previous board and coach to recognise the talents of Damien Cook, Shaun Lane, Dale Finucane and Corey Thompson also lies at the heart of Canterbury’s current situation.
It is a situation that can and will be fixed, yet time is the enemy when it comes to rebuild and recovery in the NRL.
The quality and expertise of the people charged with rebuilding the Bulldogs will ensure they eventually get the job done. For it to have happened by now is an unreal expectation.
Stay the course and prepare to see Reimis Smith and Jayden Okunbor in full flight on the end of a slick Bulldog back line in the near future.
Look out for Ofahiki Ogden’s continued development up front and get excited about our new additions Joe Stimson and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.
With Kieran Foran now delivering exactly what the club signed him for and Nick Meaney looking likely to blossom into an accomplished first grade player, there are shoots of hope.
Sticking around to see those shoots bloom will be the most satisfying part of the entire experience . It will require a little pain, patience and progress.
The club has been to the cellar and the return to the penthouse is going to take some time yet.