Ennis: Dogs must evolve before it's too late
Former Canterbury skipper Michael Ennis believes Des Hasler's team has been left behind in the way that they continue to attack and must adapt quickly before finals football becomes out of reach.
Currently sitting 11th on the table but 15th in terms of points scored behind even the Knights, Ennis says in this week's issue of Big League that their halves haven't been given the freedom to play what they see and are instead stuck in a pattern of play that many other clubs have already discarded.
Hosting the free-wheeling Panthers on Sunday at ANZ Stadium, the Bulldogs have been unable to score more than 18 points in their past five games and lost four of them, prompting Ennis to call for the shackles to be released and allow a talented roster the opportunity to showcase their skills.
"The game has moved in a new direction in the past 18 months and the good teams have evolved," Ennis says in the Round 13 issue of Big League.
"Clunky block plays and structures are a thing of the past and the teams at the top of the ladder have recognised this.
"It's allowed halves to dominate and play what's in front of them. They play through the middle third and above the advantage line and the halves can capitalise by playing fast and direct to the edges.
"For me, the Bulldogs haven't evolved in this area.
"Moses Mbye, Matt Frawley and Michael Lichaa need to be able to play what's in front of them.
"Changes to their attacking structures would help their chances, because in defence they've been brave."
With Josh Reynolds currently injured and on his way to the Wests Tigers next year, Michael Lichaa off contract and Kieran Foran coming to the club in 2018, how the Bulldogs' attack will look next season remains something of a mystery.
The ball-playing of forwards such as James Graham, Sam Kasiano and Greg Eastwood has served the side well under Hasler's tenure but Ennis is of the belief that they are hindering the team's ability to post points out wide.
"The squad is finals quality, but at the moment they just can't click into gear," says Ennis.
"There is so much uncertainty in the playing group in terms of where their future lies and in my opinion it's translated onto the field.
"To make the finals they need to find some rhythm – but when they get momentum they tend to move the football around when they need to play through the middle. Get rid of the forwards ball-playing and get the halves playing in front of the advantage line with some clean crisp passing out to the centres.
"At the moment the ball goes through too many hands before it gets to them, which is predictable and easy for the defence to read."
The Round 13 issue of Big League featuring a mid-season review for all 16 teams, the senior Sharks keen to play on, John Asiata's wide array of skills and the top eight unwanted records is on sale now at newsagents, supermarkets, at the ground and via www.magsonline.com.au/big-league.