TK’s take on the Canterbury Bulldogs:
- New attack minded coach in Trent Barrett. Doggies were great at time defensively just couldn't crack the opposition despite good field position in many games.
- Some great off season signings led by Kyle Flanagan and Nick Cotric. Despite being partnered with Luke Keary, Flano averaged 54 points and in pre-season commentary, Barrett has spoken about his desire to see Kyle as a dominant half with significant touches.
- Depth in the forwards. Some interesting competition for spots which only intensifies with the return from serious injury of Adam Elliott and Joe Stimson. Elliott has seen some steady fantasy league production over the years (2018 - 32pts in 44 mins, 2019 - 37pts in 51 mins, 2020 - 47pts in 58 mins). The fiery Jack Hetherington and Corey Waddell should also become fan favourites with the Doggies faithful.
- Jake Averillo. In his first season of first grade, 20 year Averillo impressed good judges with his hands, footwork and speed playing all over the park from centre, wing, bench and finishing the year at five-eight. Given his running ability could easily slot into the starting role next to Flanagan, but given that Burton is on the way for 2021 would probably make more sense long term to have him consistently in the team at centre. In 2020, Averillo played 13 games with an average of 22.5 pts in 55 minutes average per game.
- Lack of an elite hooker. Great back ups in Marshall-King and Katoa just lack polish to take the team to the next level. Marshall-King didn't play one game in the halves so he's likely to lose his dual position.
- Inexperienced halves and still question marks on who best suits Flanagan in the halves. If Barrett is adamant that Flanagan will be this dominant half well Lachlan Lewis might get rubbed out as he likes his hands on the ball a lot. A running half in Wakeham or Averillo might complement Flanagan more.
- Wing depth. ACL injuries to Okunbor in the last round of 2020 and Crichton has stretched their depth in this area. A picture of Malakai Watene-Zelezniak at training in a Dogs polo may see a replacement in the works already but don't be surprised if Cotric ends up there out of necessity.
Other notes - Luke Thompson averaged 43 points in 53 minutes average per game which is decent considering he didn't have a preseason with the team. Should improve significantly now his had more time with the team and is acclimatizing to the NRL. Only downside is he is suspended for the first 4 hours of the season.
- Their best fantasy scorer in Aiden Tolman has left for the Sharks.
Verdict - 12th to 1th finish. Still rebuilding into 2020, will continue to improve on the field but will over achieve it if they finish in the top 10 next year. Given they have elite players such as Josh Addo-Carr and Matt Burton on the way for the following year, 2021 is still a rebuilding year under a new coach with a huge push to happen for 2022. Patience is the key.
How do you see the Bulldogs going in 2021?