Canterbury Bulldogs 2017 Season in Review
Numbers only tell part of the tale. In NRL.com’s club-by-club series delving into the 2017 season analytics, Paul Zalunardo and Chris Kennedy examine why the Canterbury Bulldogs were way too inconsistent to mount a successful finals campaign and where they need to improve next season.
Among the woes for the blue and whites was an inability to score points – they were the NRL’s worst attacking team – and a struggle to win away from home (only Newcastle and the Warriors had a worse road record than Canterbury's three wins and nine losses).
A strong finish with three straight wins included two of their three away wins for the year and also accounted for their top three scores of the season.
"We were probably playing really competitive footy towards the end there," says centre Josh Morris.
"The last three weeks to finish on that note was good but it's a new season, you've got to forget about that, you've got to work hard during the pre-season and then try and start the year off as well as possible.
"We have had those changes and it's about getting our combinations right during the pre-season. We play the Storm, the premiers in the first round. It's about taking on the best and seeing where we're at."
A poor season away from home played a major role in Canterbury missing out on the finals. The Dogs won three of 12 away fixtures, with an average points haul of 14.8 playing a major factor in their struggles on the road.
In a season in which scoring proved a problem, rookie winger Marcelo Montoya led the way with 12 tries in 19 matches. No other Canterbury player cracked double figures. Brett Morris finished fourth with six tries.
Canterbury (34.5m) finished slightly above the NRL average of 33.4m when it came to clearing the ball out of their own 40m. No Dogs player finished in the top 10 in the NRL in any major kicking category.
Tireless prop Aiden Tolman was never far from the action in 2017. He led the Dogs in this category but was well adrift of the top 10 in the NRL.
Centre pairing Josh Morris and Brenko Lee led the way for the Dogs. Neither finished in the top 12 of the league, but they joined hooker Michael Lichaa as only men in blue and white to average more than nine metres per run.
David Klemmer conceded 17 penalties to be the worst of the Bulldogs in this department. Now Wests Tigers five-eighth Josh Reynolds conceded 14 penalties in 17 matches.
Former representative centre Josh Morris had a year to forget in this department, making 26 mistakes. Special mention to Aiden Tolman who made just six errors throughout the season.
Bulldogs powerhouse David Klemmer was head and shoulders above his teammates in this department. The rugged forward was second best in the NRL behind George Burgess. He was the only Dogs player to finish in the top 30.
Klemmer has carried that form through to rep level with NSW and Australia and teammate Adam Elliott says the big carries from the tall timber constantly inspire teammates.
"Yeah it's massive," Elliott told NRL.com.
"Watching him play in the World Cup, that's a higher level and it still takes three or four people to bring him down.
"When we're coming out of trouble and you look to your left and see big Klem winding up for that next carry, you know that next run is going to be the one that builds momentum for the set.
"That gets us in good position to kick the footy down into the corner. It's very inspiring when you see him roll up the sleeves and have a crack… It makes you want to rip in next to him."
His team didn’t win a lot of matches, but Matt Frawley made some strong contributions off the bench. His individual result was good enough for eighth-best in the NRL.
Senior teammate Josh Morris credited Frawley's controlled kicking game for his influence on the team's net gain in his time on field.
"I thought he played really well when he got his chance," Morris said.
"He adds a bit more of a calm head on his shoulders which is nice to see in a young half.
"He had a kicking game where we forced a few repeat sets then we were able to come up with points on the back of that. That was a strong point of his, getting those repeat sets."
Veteran Bulldogs prop Aiden Tolman turned in another tireless display in the middle third of the field.
The 29-year-old made 908 tackles during the season, more than 200 clear of the next best at the club.
After missing just 40 tackles across 24 matches, Tolman effective tackle percentage of 92.7 was well inside the top 30 in the Telstra Premiership.