Another season, another loss for the Bulldogs.
Expectations for 2023 were high. Not winning a Premier League, but fighting for the top eight.
The Bulldogs had acquired the game’s most sought-after youth manager in Cameron Ciraldo, while 2022 Grand Finalist Reed Mahoney and two-time Premiership winner Viliame Kikau led the signings.
Jake Averillo was moved down the middle to make room for Hayze Perham, who surprisingly excelled at full-back in pre-season.
Kyle Flanagan was feeling more comfortable and confident than ever as No 7, a slimmed down Tevita Pangai junior made promises to the club about his fitness and Josh Reynolds was at home.
It had what it took to be a good year.
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Kikau broke his pectoral muscle a month later, Flanagan was dropped and then turned into a whore, Averillo switched back to full-back – and then back to center – Reynolds spent more time in the NSW Cup than the NRL before retiring , and Pangai Junior shocked everyone by swapping boots for boxing gloves.
The Bulldogs had 36 players this season — more than any other team. Injuries played a part, of course, but whether it was a year of ‘opportunity’ – as the club sees it – or simply 27 rounds of trial and error mayhem is debatable.
Flanagan moves Dragons back to Sydney | 02:59
RECORD 2023: 7 wins, 17 losses (15th)
What went well:Jacob Preston. He appeared on day one of pre-season as a little-known 21-year-old just looking for a chance after signing his first top-30 contract. Ten months later, he cleaned up at the Bulldogs’ awards ceremony, picking up Rookie of the Year awards, the club’s Members’ Player of the Year awards, and the prestigious Dr. George Peponi’s Player of the Year. Preston was spotted playing Jersey Flegg for the Roosters last year. The Bulldogs kept a close eye on him and after just a few games in the New South Wales Cup with the North Sydney Bears, they pounced on him and signed him to a two-year contract. In April, with just seven NRL games under his belt — and “Prestonmania” capturing fan bases — the Bulldogs renewed him for a three-year term. Phil Gould, general manager of football, said at the time that Preston was viewed as the club’s future leader – and reiterated this at Tuesday’s awards ceremony. Preston finished the season with six tries and ten line breaks in 20 games. He averaged 35 tackles per game — the team’s second-highest — and finished seventh in the one-on-one tackle contest. And its uses were unmatched. Polite and incredibly humble, Preston showed a maturity beyond his age as he thanked all the right people – from the coaching staff to his family – in his acceptance speech on Tuesday night before wishing the outgoing players “all the best in their future endeavours.” “ wish. He admitted he was “so nervous” on his first day of pre-season because nobody knew who he was. He’s now a household name – and has what it takes to become a Bulldogs legend.
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What went wrong: Pretty much everything else. Between the results on the pitch and the rumors off the pitch, it’s difficult to find a place to start. But we’ll start with the results, because these usually determine how much outside noise there is. There were promising signs in the pre-season trials and a Round 2 surprise via the Storm delighted the Dogs’ ardent fans. In April, the Bulldogs were in eighth place with three wins from five rounds. Josh Reynolds was back in the NRL and a Matt Burton field goal sealed an exciting win over the Cowboys. The season went well. Then came a 50-16 loss for the Rabbitohs, followed by a 30-4 loss to the Eels. The defense system that Ciraldo had brought from Penrith began to crumble, but no one could predict what would happen in round 18. A total 66-0 embarrassment for the Knights. The fans booed the players when the score was 30-0 at halftime, and those who hadn’t booed booed them again at halftime. Ciraldo was asked in the post-match press conference if it had hit rock bottom and he said: “I don’t know if it’s bottomed. It’s an embarrassing moment, it’s a disappointing moment.” However, he did hint that this is a character-building opportunity. Admittedly, the team responded with a narrow win over the undermanaged Rabbitohs seven days later and a spirited first half against the Broncos the following week. But the statistics paint a bleak picture. The Bulldogs were conceding an average of 5.5 tries and 32 points per game — the most in the competition. They finished the season with 769 conceded points — just 13 points below the club record set in 2008. It was also the seventh straight season the Dogs failed to reach the Finals, marking their longest streak since 1948–1959. The results drew criticism from the club, but things really exploded when it was alleged that a training penalty prompted a player to request a mental health leave. There were allegations of lawsuits, conflicting reports and much back and forth in the media. The truth probably lies somewhere in between, but whatever, the only word that can sum up the course of the saga is ugly.
Cronk Praises Chooks’ “Fluid Structure” | 02:38
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What you need: The conversation has been about a halfback for so long. But take one look at the 2024 roster and there’s one glaring problem: a severe lack of big, powerful bodies. With Tevita Pangai Junior retiring and Luke Thompson’s future still uncertain, the field looks thin. It also doesn’t take into account the fact that Ray Faitala-Mariner was told to look elsewhere and that Franklin Pele is out as well. There were rumors that Siua Taukeiaho and Poasa Faamausili would join Belmore, but neither has been confirmed. Taukeiaho, 31, has enjoyed an injury-plagued season with the Catalans in the Super League, while Faamausili has missed just four NRL games with the Dolphins this year. Aside from Pele, who has been linked with the Super League, and Faitala-Mariner, the only recruits signed for next season are Liam Knight, Max King and Ryan Sutton. While they’re all unafraid to roll up their sleeves, they’re not exactly the type of player to instill fear in their opponents.
Come: Stephen Crichton (Panthers), Bronson Xerri (return from lockdown), Blake Taaffe (Rabbitohs), Jaeman Salmon (Panthers).
Go: Jake Averillo (Dolphins), Jayden Okunbor (Super League), Tevita Pangai Junior (Retired)
Non-contractual: Braidon Burns, Corey Waddell, Declan Casey, Kyle Flanagan, Luke Thompson, Paul Alamoti, Sam Hughes
https://www.foxsports.com.au/nrl/nrl-premiership/roster-truth-gus-must-admit-and-shining-light-no-one-saw-coming-dogs-brutal-review/news-story/cc5f07137da5a814b44ab8637b4e44bd Bulldogs Season Recap, Cameron Ciraldo, Squad, Recruits, Matt Burton, Reed Mahoney, Jacob Preston, Viliame Kikau