The first game I can vividly remember watching the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs play was in 1979.
A young and hungry squad roared through the finals from fifth place only to be well beaten by a quality St George side packed with internationals, experience and names that would become legendary in the game.
I have a distinct memory of a commentator suggesting that coach Ted Glossop was feeding the team raw meat throughout the week in order to produce the kinds of performances they were coming up with on weekends.
Led by the Mortimer and Hughes brothers and a well drilled supporting cast, they were a dream to watch. Ball movement, plenty of tries and a solid defence, that was probably underrated at times, were the hallmarks of this great team.
The 1980 premiership was truly magnificent with the try of the season being the last one scored as Steve Gearin chased a speculative Greg Brentnall bomb and dove over in the final minutes. This crushed the Roosters chances of another premiership after a successful decade in the 70s.
After a few lean years Warren Ryan created a force that was a complete juxtaposition to ‘the entertainers’ with the ’84, 85 and ’86 grand final teams. Gang tackles, low scores and the battle of attrition was the new game style and the squad at the time executed it masterfully.
These battles may have been low on flair and entertainment yet totally effective in their execution.
The homecoming of Terry Lamb and his brilliant thirteen years of service that followed shaped the dogs fortunes through the 90s. There were lean times in the early nineties and two fruitless minor premierships in ’93 and ’94.
The rise of a new era then occurred with names such as the Smith brothers, Jim Dymock, Dean Pay, Steve Price and Simon Gillies fusing as a team while the early rumblings of the so called Super League war began to fester.
The Manly powerhouse beaten on grand final day 1995 was stacked with talent and reputation yet they too were added to an impressive list of teams knocked off one by one in the semi-finals, including the Dragons, Broncos and Raiders.
There have been highs and lows over the last twenty years. A glorious premiership win in 2004 with the Roosters on the receiving end again. An embarrassing salary cap scandal that destroyed any good will and the Coffs Harbour rape charges which destroyed reputations, created perceptions that to this day remain ingrained in the minds of many supporters.
The current team is a powerful one, no doubt, Des Hasler has been at the helm for over four years now and two grand finals are testimony to his effective coaching. However as a fan remembering all that has gone before, good and bad, and the culture of spirit, toughness and effort something does need to be said.
Tony Williams is the most ineffective player to have ever worn our jersey. Significant statement, I know, but before looking at numbers let’s look at the more esoteric side of the game. The Bulldogs are blessed with a huge pack and plenty of keen ball runners such as James Graham, Aidan Tolman and Sam Kasiano.
Watching from the lofty heights of level four at ANZ Stadium I have lost track of the number of times Williams has vanished in the final minutes when the team needs to ‘ice’ the game with cool heads.
Graham has frequently taken two hit ups in the final set to ensure the security of the ball. Williams, our supposed marquee man upon his arrival, loiters on the left hand side.
Players earning $600,000 a year are expected to do more, especially when they are six foot three and weigh 120 kilograms.
When a team makes a break against the ‘Dogs, pause the game. Carefully note the desperate and sometimes futile chases of Josh Jackson, James Graham and Josh Reynolds.
Then cast your eyes back behind the play and see our lumbering Origin and international rep player jogging along in his own little bubble.
This scenario would be fine if he was exhausted from working tirelessly in defence in the previous set, yet this is so ridiculous I don’t think I need to even finish the sentence. The statistics will expose just how stupid that assertion is.
The fact is that Williams’ ball running is unacceptable and his chase is poor. Previous captain Michael Ennis, new hooker Michael Lichaa and Josh Jackson have clocked up huge tackle numbers over the last three or four years. They are doing the work of another who seems either incapable or unwilling.
This is what the statistics say about Williams over the course of the last three years.
Other battering ram type players such as Aaron Woods and Paul Gallen both average over 30 tackles a game, over 17 hit-ups per game and well over 150 metres per game over the same time period.
These two guys are obviously of very high quality and, without knowing the details of their contract, I am sure they get paid for it. Do these look like $600,000 year figures to you?
I include the line-breaks, tries and try assists as evidence that a low workload in grunt is not due to Williams energy going towards flair, creativity and point scoring. In 2015 he made one line break. Are you kidding me? He hasn’t scored a try for twenty games.
Four and a half years of agony has hopefully come to an end with Des finally dropping Williams last weekend. If he re-emerges this weekend I won’t know where to look. The tale of Williams seems to equate to the lost years of Adam Blair.
Terry Lamb recently commented that he felt Hasler may not fully grasp the culture of the club. While a long shot, I see where he was coming from.
Bulldogs players don’t play like Tony Williams, sure we have had weak links over the years and players that were a little out of their depth, but they weren’t getting paid $600,000 a year and they always ‘had a go’. Mitch Newton springs to mind.
Perhaps his first year at Manly is the most telling as he played predominately on the wing. His positional move seems to have been positional only without any change in work rate. Maybe the Bulldogs should have been a little more canny in terms of recruitment.
For Tony Williams and his family I hope he gets back to playing good football in the near future with another team. Surely he couldn’t be re-signed. To have played Origin and international football there must be something there. Mustn’t there?