In the last few years on the Fergo and The Freak podcast we have had the pleasure of chatting with Ben Darwin of Mainline Analytics on the important of cohesion in sport and how it affects winning.
Very basically, the statistics suggest that the longer a lineup is stable and plays games together, the better they will be. Combinations get a chance to gel, players get familiar with one another, and the cohesion of a squad is above all else when it comes to winning football games.
That is what makes the Canterbury Bulldogs so interesting in 2022…
Here you have a club that is coming off a number of very lean seasons. Salary cap issues, salary cap breaches and flat out mismanagement saw the Bulldogs playing stocks fall to an all time low at points over the last five years. The club got through all of that though, and what we see in 2022 is a team that splashed out a lot of cash for quality players from all over the game, bringing them together for what should be a much better season for long suffering Doggies fans.
Or will it?
If cohesion really is what drives a teams success above all else, the Bulldogs shouldn’t have a good year this year. Despite all the great talent they have in their side, they should struggle. This goes completely against how I tend to feel about what makes a winning team. In my opinion the most talented side wins football games the vast majority of the time, especially when to scale that out over the course of a series or an entire season.
This Bulldogs experiment of bringing together players from all over the competition into the team in one off season is like a big roll of the dice at a casino online. There will be little to no cohesion earl on, and a slow start coupled with some of their players entering State Of Origin teams, coupled with possible Covid cases, suspensions and injuries could make it hard for the team to get any cohesion at all. It could be a disaster. I don’t think it will be though.
Its almost as though the Bulldogs in 2022 will be a great experiment in philosophy in what drives winning. Is it talent, or cohesion?
I feel as though if things goi their way the Bulldogs SHOULD be pushing for the 7th and 8th spots on the NRL ladder come seasons end. Finals football. I like most of their signings. I think they cut away some dead weight from the club as well.
I do worry about Matt Burton having to play a bit of a long hand in the halves, that is a lot of pressure to put on him, but I also think he will handle it well.
I think their signings up front have been very good, Paul Vaughan I think will be an absolute steal for them while Tevita Pangai Jr showed at the Panthers towards the end of last year that he can be a great asset and a very good leader in the right situation.
Matt Dufty took up a one year deal to showcase himself at the club, so he has all the motivation in the world to step up and have a huge season, and then you have the great Josh Addo-Carr on the wing, one of the greatest wingers the game has ever seen.
There are so many positives there for the Bulldogs this season, and its great to see. Bulldogs fans have really been through it over the last few years, but they finally have a good team to cheer for!
The halfback spot and hooker are a worry, but everywhere else in the side I like what they are doing, and there is more talent on the way in 2023 this Kikau and Mahoney on their way.
This year though we will see, via the Bulldogs is talent or cohesion matters more to winning football games.
I love this experiment!
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