Nigel Wall, NRL.com
No doubt whenever the Bulldogs look back on season 2012 it will be with a hint of disappointment and they will be keen for 2013 not to end the same way.
Strengths: Tony Williams’ battering ram charges will plug the one hole missing in the Canterbury jigsaw puzzle – their inability to get over the stripe from close range. For all their long-range brilliance the ’Dogs struggled inside the opposition 10-metre-zone in 2012 – incredibly they crossed for just 37 tries from inside this distance, the fourth fewest by any team.
‘T-Rex’ will fix that. His acquisition makes the ’Dogs arguably the most dangerous left-edge attacking side in the comp, boosting the already formidable threat posed by Ben Barba, Frank Pritchard, Josh Morris and Sam Perrett. It also paves the way for either Williams or Pritchard to switch to the right side of the field. Fans can expect improvement and big seasons from Josh Jackson and Dale Finucane after the young pair acquitted themselves with aplomb at the back end of 2012, culminating in spots in the GF squad.
Weaknesses: Canterbury will be reliant on Steve Turner and Tim Lafai making successful returns from long-term injuries or else they may feel the pinch out wide. While Sam Perrett and Krisnan Inu proved instant hits when recruited mid-2012 the ’Dogs have since lost GF winger Jonathan Wright (to the Sharks) and Bryson Goodwin (to Souths), leaving them vulnerable should anyone hit the deck. The Tony Williams/David Stagg trade won’t help their defensive stats – even more so now the shoulder charge (a T-Rex calling card) has been outlawed. With Stagg’s furious work ethic Canterbury recorded the fourth-best efficiency at felling opponents –Williams’ former Sea Eagles were second worst. While the ’Dogs have an abundance of talent in the back row, James Graham’s unavailability until Round 9 due to suspension will be a huge drain on their prop stocks, with Aiden Tolman and Sam Kasiano destined for big minutes. Martin Taupau needs to step up from the get-go to offer adequate back-up.
Elsewhere, halfback Kris Keating needs to offer more as a creator: in 2012 Josh Reynolds tallied 20 try assists and 10 line-break assists in the No.6 jersey; inside him Keating added just 11 try assists and six line-break assists. Hopefully Keating and Trent Hodkinson can erase thoughts of Johnathan Thurston’s courting by club bosses and deliver the blue and white strong seasons.