AS a Bulldogs fan I know just what it’s like to feel frustrated. Our brand of footy for much of last year and this year has been boring, predictable and down right annoying.
Fans have asked for change because of just that – our style. They want to see some fluid attack. They want to see us with some structure, a kicking game, some organisation.
We are flat, we run the same predictable plays and we have blokes who don’t look interested.
Enter Raelene Castle and the board. Sick and tired, they made some hard calls. They sacked a lot of Des Hasler’s staff, took some control away from him while re-signing one of the games very best coaches.
Don’t agree? Too bad. There’s no denying it. Hasler was and is one of the games premier coaches. He knows what he is doing. So what’s the problem?
I will be the first to say that I don’t agree with some of his decisions as a coach. Mbye is no leader in the halves. I would prefer to see young Montoya on the wing over Holland, but Hasler stuck to his guns and now the right winger is consistently one of our best.
The club have gotten rid of Josh Reynolds, the very man thousands of fans wanted to get rid of after several bad performances. He is pushing 30 after all, and was asking for huge money.
The club offered him $500,000 to stay. He rejected it to sign a $750k contract with Wests Tigers. Good on him.
It seems he made his decision several weeks before it was announced, and his form increased. But I think this is largely thanks to Matt Frawley – a genuine halfback.
Enter Kieran Foran. What a signing. A young, talented half with the best yet to come and a strong relationship with Hasler. He will turn this club around.
But still, fans sook and whinge and whine and cry.
The Bulldogs went out and signed Australian prop Aaron Woods – a great move considering her too is only 26 years old, whereas James Graham is significantly older and closer to a return to England or retirement – likely at the end of 2018.
It is all about planning for the future, and Woods and Foran are two blokes a team can be built around.
Add to that the current crop of players signed long term and not likely to ever go elsewhere: Josh Jackson, Dave Klemmer, Marcelo Montoya, Danny Fualalo, Renouf To’omaga just to name a few.
Ralene also put her foot down with Will Hopoate, and he will now play Sundays.
Hasler and co have also brought in impressive utility Fa’amanu Brown from Cronulla for 2018. Still very young with loads of potential, it is clear he is likely to play a dynamic role off the bench next year.
Speaking of the bench – good riddance Sam Kasiano. And I say that with a very heavy heart. He is a very loveable bloke, a legend if you will.
But times are changing and fans need to wake up and realise that this game is a business. Sometimes the brain needs to take over the heart.
We have seen it with Reynolds’ departure, and now we are seeing it with Kasiano (and Eastwood as rumour has it). Interchanges are going to reduce from 8 to 6, likely in 2018, and that means Kasiano’s 20 minutes a match just aren’t good enough.
Let’s be honest, this is the head talking her, Kasiano is a big boy who has a knack for playing more bad games than good. He can’t last more than 20 or 30 minutes. This has been proven years in a row, and moving forward it simply isn’t good enough.
He may thrive at Melbourne, but with Woods, Tolman, Graham, Fualalo and impressive young gun Francis Tualau on the books long term, Kasiano became dispensable, thus the club made the smart decision to move him on.
So please, fellow fans. Stop bloody sooking. You demand change, change is made, you whinge and cry, and then you demand change.
Does the vicious cycle ever end? Will you ever be happy? No one wants to lose, no one wants to see us perform as badly as we did against Manly or North Queensland. But be patient.
2017 will not be the Bulldogs year. I can confidentially say that I don’t feel we have the players in key positions. But I also feel Des has identified this, and that he will rectify it in 2018.
Hopefully Hopoate will re-sign. He has recommitted to Sunday’s and is a genuine fullback. We don’t need to sign another one.
Our retention has been excellent and if fans can stop complaining and get a little more positive when talking about the big picture, then things will start to look up.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com