Touted as one of the premierships favourites at the start of the year, The Bulldogs are now in serious danger of missing the top 8 altogether having won just one game (against a lowly Parramatta Eels outfit) from their first 5 games. History shows the task is now almost insurmountable. The Doggies supporters are asking “why?” and they want immediate answers. Is it the dreaded second year syndrome? Or the curse of the Grand Final runners up?
I’ve always said that, to win the NRL, you need to have everything going right on and off the field. Last year, for instance, the Bulldogs enjoyed a Des Hasler honeymoon season with minimal injury and no off-field dramas. 2013 has been a somewhat cursed year for the Dogs with injuries to key players such as 2012 Dally M Prop of the Year Sam Kasiano, Frank Pritchard and the promising David Klemmer, long term suspensions to James Graham and Krisnan Inu, family issues with Greg Eastwood and the cream on the cake – the dramas surrounding the reigning Dally M Player of the Year Ben Barba. Any team that loses that calibre of players will struggle to compete, much less win games, in the NRL.
Dig a little deeper and it appears there are more sinister issues that snowball the problems the Dogs are curently experiencing. Is Kris Keating the halfback solution? He’s an honest player who gives his all every game. He can never be criticsed for his committment and efforts but he is clearly not up to the class of other halfbacks in the competition. I am not comparing Keating to Cooper Cronk or Jonathon Thurston (no one compares to them), but Keating would not rank in the top 12 halves in the competition. That’s a simple fact. His “try assist” and “line break assist” record is one of the lowest in the competion.
Tony T-Rex Williams. Hasn’t he copped a pasting in the media? Deserved? I think so. He simply looks like a player who’s heart isn’t in his job (there is persistant rumours about him being unhappy). Perhaps the weight of expectation of being the only big signing is too hard to handle him. Des has a massive task of switching him on. I think he should start from the bench and work his way up from there.
The whisper around the traps is that the players are not a happy unit and that was evident last Friday night v Manly. It just looked a listless performance. Players weren’t encouraging each other. The players seemed deflated and demotivated for such an important game. It may have something to do with the Barba drama. I’m sure the truth will eventually come out.
Speculation is always rife when you’re losing. This is the ultimate challenge for the Bulldogs’ strength of character. Facing a raging SBW- lead Roosters outfit with so many dramas will test Des’ ability to unite the team and draw on the old Bulldogs siege mentality. Do they have it in them? All the great teams find a way out of a hole. Ironically, the Eels bounced back after a 50-0 hiding. It’s now time to stop using excuses. It’s time for the younger players to stand up and make a difference. There’s enough quality in the team to win any game. Bring on Friday night….