The NRL Season has launched in a frenzy of action and the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have begun rather embarrassingly, conceding big points in their 40-6 drubbing at the hands of the Warriors in New Zealand.
As early season favourites for the wooden spoon, many in the Bulldogs’ faithful were confident that the death-knelling that occurred in the off-season was ill-informed and inaccurate. That may still prove to be the case, yet if Saturday afternoon at Mount Smart Stadium was anything to go by, there might be a lot of Bulldog haters thinking they will be cashing in their winning tickets in September, if they did back the blue and white to finish at the foot of the competition ladder.
The Warriors are to be commended for their effort. Power running in the forwards and a continuation of their dangerous off-load game had the Bulldogs under the pump from from opening whistle. Adam Keighran stepped into the vacant halves position following the departure of Shaun Johnson and frankly, gave the attack a more direct appearance; playing with a maturity beyond his years.
However, the Dogs showed little if any promise whatsoever. The back line defensive problems that plagued them in 2018 were back immediately. Kerrod Holland was caught out time and time again and Marcelo Montoya’s debut in the centres will be one which he hopes to forget. Together, the two centres missed a total of nine tackles.
William Hopoate was his ever safe and secure self at fullback, yet with only Reimis Smith offering blinding speed and elusiveness in the back five, one wonders how the Bulldogs can continue with such a blunt weapon at the back, in one of the key positions in an NRL teams’ spine. Hopoate ran for 237 metres, a commendable effort. However, the majority of his twenty carries were more like forward hit-ups and presented little danger to the Warriors’ kick chase.
Lachlan Lewis and Kieran Foran were simply unable to gain any traction in the match, thanks to the dominance of the Warriors’ forwards. Both were rushed and ineffective; spending most of the afternoon defending against the massive men who continued to charge at them. Their best will be seen in coming weeks and only when the Bulldogs’ pack muscles up, holds the middle of the field and allows them to weave their magic.
Questions still remain around the speed and creativity emanating from dummy-half, with Michael Lichaa well controlled by the diligent and purposeful Warriors markers. Once again Lichaa tackled himself to a stand still with 43 efforts yet it is on the other side of the ball that the Bulldogs need rejuvenation.
Aiden Tolman and new recruit Dylan Napa tried hard up front yet the back row was completely obliterated by the New Zealand forwards.
Captain Josh Jackson led from the front to the best of his ability, yet Adam Elliott, Sauaso Sue and Corey Harawira-Naera were simply out muscled and enthused by the Warriors big men. Raymond Faitala-Mariner never stopped working, making 41 tackles in his return match from long term injury.
In the end, it was a humbling and somewhat embarrassing start to the season. Whilst only Round 1, there were alarming signs for the Bulldogs and the chance for redemption comes next Sunday against the Eels.
It will be all noses to the grindstone during the week and Pay may look at making some changes prior to the derby at ANZ Stadium.
New Zealand Warriors 40 Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 6