Canterbury Bulldogs: 2019 season preview

After a year of mid-season walk-outs, narrow losses and off-field dramas, 2019 is all about rebuilding for the Bulldogs.

In the midst of all that went wrong for the Belmore club, the emergence of future stars Lachlan Lewis, 22,  and Jeremy Marshall-King, 23, provides renewed hope for the season ahead.

Coach Dean Pay has a young squad and if the Dogs find some momentum early in the season they have the potential to shock opponents and critics alike.

The 2019 outlook

What's new?

The Dogs have lost two Test backs in the Morris brothers and their grunt up front in David Klemmer and Greg Eastwood, but luckily they were able to recruit some strong players in key positions.

Among their key signings were half-back Jack Cogger, winger Christian Crichton, second-rowers Corey Harawira-Naera and Chris Smith, fullback Nick Meaney, prop Dylan Napa, and lock Sauaso Sue. Pay will need to look at the side's defensive and attacking structures to ensure it works for his new crop of players.

Bulldogs playmaker Lachlan Lewis.
Bulldogs playmaker Lachlan Lewis. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

The draw

Canterbury weren't so lucky when it comes to the draw, having only one home game in the first month of their campaign. In round one they face a daunting start to the season with a trip to Auckland to face the Warriors, as well as a round four meeting with the Storm at AAMI Park.

The Bulldogs hit another tough period from round 12 when they face the Raiders, who defeated them on two occasions last season, followed by likely top eight sides in the Dragons, Roosters and the Sharks.

The stat that gives you hope

The Bulldogs will hope to bring the same discipline as they had last year into the 2019 season. The side ranked as the most disciplined team in the competition with the least penalties conceded (166), and they topped the charts for their discipline with ball in hand, posting a set competition rate of 80%.

What you need to know NRL Fantasy-wise

The exploits of Rhyse Martin ($771,000) in his breakout rookie season last year will be hard to match, but there is some Fantasy value on offer at the Bulldogs with Aiden Tolman ($572,000) expected to take on a greater workload following the exit of David Klemmer.

Five-eighth Lachlan Lewis ($645,000), young centre Kerrod Holland ($440,000) and new fullback Nick Meaney ($362,000) have already shown plenty of promise.

The coach

Dean Pay will be require to do more this season after the Dogs finished 12th on the ladder in 2018. He will also have to invest his energy in ensuring his players are doing the right thing, in the efforts to rebuild the club's image after its reputation was tarnished as a result of the Mad Monday saga.

Contract matters

As there is plenty of depth across the board for the Bulldogs, players will need to prove their worth with five off contract at the end of the 2019 season, including Fa'amanu Brown, Danny Fualalo, Michael Lichaa, Rhyse Martin and Francis Tualau.

The burning question

As former Kiwi international Kieran Foran takes up a large chunk of Canterbury's salary cap, the question this season is how much will the five-eighth contribute to making the Bulldogs a success.

After a 2017 that was plague by injury, the 28-year-old has quite a bit of pressure on his shoulders to prove his worth at the club.

Representative bolter

Injury robbed Corey Harawira-Naera's chances of playing test football with the New Zealand Kiwis side last year. Throughout the 2018 season, the second-rower made 513 tackles, scored six tries, provided 22 offloads, 42 tackle breaks and had a tackle efficiency of 86.5%.

The 23-year-old will be looking to bolster those stats to impress Kiwi selectors for his opportunity to finally make his international debut.

The player you should follow on social media

The unconditional love Kieran Foran has for his family is there for all to see as it floods the feed of the Bulldogs five-eighth.

Bulldogs five-eighth Kieran Foran.
Bulldogs five-eighth Kieran Foran. ©Scott Davis/NRL

From sharing with fans the precious moments he spends with his children to many beautiful wedding photos that were captured of him and his wife Karina at the end of last year on their special day.

The quote

"We're trying to work out our strengths. Kieran's the best at running and taking them on. One of my strengths is kicking, talking, organising. So if things happen the way I'd like them, I'd love to be talking to the boys then passing the footy to Kieran and he can score the tries - let him go and do his thing."  -  Lachlan Lewis on how he hopes his combination with Foran is going to play out in 2019.

Arrows indicate players who signed after the submission of initial rosters on November 1, 2018.