13/04/2024

The Bulldogs looking to make the eight next year after going through lots of changes in staff. (Image: Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs Twitter)

The Bulldogs will be looking to compete for a finals spot next year. After firing their head coach and trying to find a consistent core group of players, the Bulldogs have made progress and strides in the right direction to help with the foreseeable future.

After a slow, disruptive start for the Bulldogs in 2022, they were able to pick up the quality of play, win some games, and show the potential the future of the club has to offer.

From firing a coach who only had one full season with the club, to the signings of Tevita Pangai Jr, Josh Addo-Carr and Matt Burton having stretches of disappointing performances, the Bulldogs were chaotic to begin the year.

It ultimately added up to a lot of changes that are starting to help turn around the club for the better.

Finishing position: 12th (seven wins, 17 losses)

What worked?

The combination between Josh Addo-Carr and Matt Burton stood out the most in a struggling Bulldogs squad. 

Burton’s kicking game allowed Addo-Carr to use his speed and agility to beat defenders and make metres, as well as score points.

With Mick Potter replacing Trent Barrett halfway through the season as head coach, the former’s understanding of the players the Bulldogs have and what they are good at led to an immediately noticeable difference in their offence.

In the first 10 weeks of the 2022 season, Barrett coached the Bulldogs towards scoring a total of 96 points. In comparison, Potter then had his side scoring 94 just in his first four weeks as a coach.

A consistent spine implemented in Potter’s reign saw Jake Averillo shift from halfback to fullback after stretches of playing centre, with the Bulldogs disappointed in Matt Dufty’s quality of play.

Kyle Flanagan, who was dropped to play NSW Cup since last year, was promoted to first grade after a month to begin the 2022 season. He became the full-time halfback that was initially planned when he first signed there.

Between 2021 and midway through the 2022 season, Barrett only coached five wins. He won three in 2021 and twos games in three months in 2022 with a much-improved squad.

What didn’t?

The ball playing from Josh Jackson at lock under Barrett indicated a coach trying to copy and paste successful structures seamlessly, making the situation worse than it already was.

The attack from the Bulldogs struggled tremendously, which at times was depicted with the ‘it shouldn’t be happening with the talent they have’ analysis from experts.

Even though the attack got better with Potter at the helm, the Bulldogs still had the third worst in the competition, only scoring 383 points in 24 games (15.9 points per game).

Under Potter, they scored 241 points in 12 games (20 points per game), which still leaves the Dogs with a bottom four offence.

Conceding the sixth most points in the 2022 season, they allowed 575 points in 24 games (24 points per game) 

Who impressed?

Jeremy Marshall-King impressed the most this year for the Bulldogs. His dummy half-play improved tremendously compared to the 2021 season.

The creativity and spark he can create by running around the ruck and scooping up the ball to speed up the beginning of set play helped the Bulldogs pick up the pace offensively.

Playing every game this year, Marshall-King improved his try-scoring count to his season-best of five tries, and had a career-high receipts of the ball, with 2,294. He also had 927 tackles made which was a improvement of over 600 tackles from the 2021 season, and had 1500 running metres compared to his 400 total in 2021.

Marshall-King has become one of the most improved players in the competition, going from out of the best 17 to playing every game in the 2022 season and being one of the most consistent players for the Bulldogs.

It is clear how good of a player the Dolphins will be getting next year with a lot of upside and unlocking even more in his game than ever before.

More NRL Season Reviews

NRL 2022 Season Review: Gold Coast Titans

NRL 2022 Season Review: Newcastle Knights

NRL 2022 Season Review: New Zealand Warriors

Season highlight:

The Round 14 match-up with the Parramatta Eels was anticipated to be a blowout performance for the Bulldogs in just the second game Potter would coach since becoming the interim.

The Eels did not match the fired-up and motivated Bulldogs squad that would score 34 points to four at Accor Stadium.

Addo-Carr scored a hat-trick in this game, proving to doubters that he should have been selected in the State of Origin.

Averillo would have his best game in Bulldogs, and as their new fullback, scoring two tries.

Rookie Jacob Kiraz would also show how impressive he is as an up and coming NRL star, scoring a try and running 21 times for 229 running metres. His performance included 78 post contact metres and six tackle breaks, along with a line break and line break assist.

Burton would also contribute to the win with his game-changing kicking style that saw the Eels make errors and struggle to counter the Bulldogs’ attack.

Burton would have 20 kicks for 618 metres in total in this game.

The middle forwards also dominated in the middle third, with Paul Vaughan having 15 runs for 158 running metres and moving the ball exceptionally well.

Max King ran 17 times for 173 running metres, along with making 39 tackles.

Josh Jackson led the tackle count for the Dogs, with 53 tackles, holding the defensive line together strongly.

The first four weeks under Mick Potter in general were the highest point for the Bulldogs.

They scored 94 points during this time and had two 30 plus point games in the win against the Eels and the Tigers the week after, scoring 36-12.

After missing out on the first Origin game, Addo-Carr would end up tearing it up at club level, scoring five tries combined across both games. 

To put this in perspective, the star winger only scored six tries in 12 weeks to start his tenure for the club.

After the horrid start to the season, the Bulldogs looked like they were hard to beat, set for an incredible turnaround for the rest of the season at that point in time.

Season lowlight:

The Bulldogs’ start to the regular season was awful, losing six in a row after winning the first regular season game against the Cowboys. 

Their finish to the season would be equally difficult, losing the last four of five games. 

They did win the last regular season game against the Manly Sea Eagles with a golden point field goal from Matt Burton.

In the stretch of a month, they lost 28-14 to a firing Cowboys team, 42-18 to the Warriors in one of a few New Zealand home games, lost the rematch against the Eels 42-6 and went scoreless against the Sharks, losing 16-0. 

In total, they allowed 128 points against them while only scoring 38 points, for -90 point differential.

Top off-season priority:

The Bulldogs need to improve their defence, being in the top six for most conceded points this season.

With Potter as an assistant coach and the attacking coach potentially, the offence will only continue to get better.

The playing group is also going to improve for 2023 even more than it did for 2022, with the signings of Reed Mahoney, Viliame Kikau and role players that will help evolve the offence and defence to another level. 

Having a defensive coach in Cameron Ciraldo, who signed a five-year deal to be the head coach starting from the 2023 NRL season, will allow the Bulldogs to be one of the better-rounded squads in all aspects of the game for the foreseeable future.

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