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Kieran Foran during his last season with the Bulldogs.

It has been a challenging year for many, and Bulldogs fans certainly felt it acutely with their team mired at the foot of the ladder for most of the year.

The blue and whites finished the season with just three wins, and while they were never really in the hunt for finals they could so easily have had five or six more wins, with their grit rarely rewarded.

Points were hard to come by – only Brisbane scored fewer – but their defence finished up in a better state than four other clubs, which is arguably a better indicator of their efforts in 2020.

There was a heavy injury toll to deal with, plus the sacking of coach Dean Pay, along with a few glimmers of joy such as the emergence of Jake Averillo, the improvement of Raymond Faitala-Mariner and the impressive late-season win over Souths that averted a wooden spoon.

The roster refresh continues, with the likes of Kieran Foran, Aiden Tolman and Kerrod Holland departing while Kyle Flanagan is inbound alongside Jack Hetherington, Corey Waddell and the injured Blake Green.

New coach Trent Barrett is coming off a grand final appearance with the Panthers and will no doubt be active in the player market between now and round one as the club looks to build for the future.

Home and Away record

The Dogs finished up with the worst home record of any side, with just a solitary win from 10 home games. Their two wins from 10 away games bettered only the Broncos and equalled the Cowboys.

That 'home' win came at Bankwest Stadium in round four against the Dragons, back when COVID-19 restrictions meant most grounds were not being used.

They took two points back from a trip to Newcastle in round 11 and did win one game at their regular home ground when they downed Souths at ANZ Stadium in round 19, giving them one win and seven losses at the venue this year.

Run metres differential

A perennially reliable indicator of a team's season form is their metres gained and conceded per match, and it's no surprise to see the 15th-placed Dogs fare poorly here.

For a variety of reasons such as possession flow, including errors and penalties, kicking off more often after conceding points, losing the ruck or not having as many individuals who can powerfully and tirelessly rack up metres, the lower-ranked teams inevitably get out-run over the course of a season.

The Dogs gained the 13th most metres per game with 1572 and conceded more per match than any side bar the Broncos (dead equal with the Dragons) at 1847 per game for a differential of -275 metres per week. It's very hard to win games when you're getting outrun by that far.

The Dogs' best yardage man per game was Will Hopoate, with 152 metres per game in his 13 starts, while Dallin Watene Zelenziak (2642 at 147 in his 18 games) racked up the most across the season. Aiden Tolman (2399 metres at 141 per match) was third-best overall and best of the forwards.

Try scoring – game time

Canterbury conceded more tries than they scored, on average, in all four quarters of games across the season but were most competitive in the 20 minutes either side of half time.

The back end of the first half was their best for tries scored with 16 coming between the 20 and 40-minute marks.

They had trouble finding the line at the starts and ends of games, with just 10 tries all season in both the opening and final quarters of games as opposition sides frequently got the jump on them early or came home over the top.

Tries conceded – game time

The 20 minutes after half time was the Dogs' best period defensively with 20 tries for the season coming in that period, although the gap between their best and worst defensive quarters was not massive.

It was the home stretch of matches that was the most costly for the Dogs, who not only scored just 10 tries all year after the 60-minute mark but conceded 26 tries in the same period as a number of winnable games slipped away.

Tries scored from six-agains

The ruck infringement rule had a big say in how season 2020 panned out, with the teams who adapted better proving much harder to stop than those who struggled coming to grips with it.

Only the Broncos and Titans scored fewer tries in the set after earning a ruck infringement than Canterbury, with seven tries. The eight sides who played finals all made it into double figures with the Sharks (20 tries) cashing in the best.

Overall the Dogs were well-behaved in this area though, conceding 62 infringements across the season – the third-fewest. Lachlan Lewis and Jeremy Marshall-King (eight each) were pinged the most.

Metres gained from offloads

Offloads weren't a big part of the Canterbury playbook in season 2020, with Watene-Zelezniak's 28 for the season the most for the club and 11th most in the NRL.

DWZ was the only player to promote the ball for better than 100 metres across the season by offloading, with 142 metres. Second best was Sauaso Sue (86 meters), the only other Bulldog above 70 metres.

The second most offloads by the Dogs this year came from Adam Elliott, whose 14 in eight games was just the 64th biggest tally in the NRL.

Goal-kicking accuracy

Canterbury's goal kicking wasn't great in 2020, though it mostly wasn't a huge factor in their results.

There were three close losses that could potentially have been overturned with perfect goal-kicking: a four-point loss to the Titans in round 17 (though the Titans scored one more try and it was only their own poor goal-kicking that kept the Dogs in the hunt), a one-point loss to Wests Tigers in round 14 in which both teams converted four from five tries, and the two-point loss to the Eels in round 12 in which both teams scored three tries but the Eels converted all three while the Dogs missed one shot.

However only one of those games (the Tigers one) would have been won with an extra goal, the other two they could at best have forced extra time.

All up Canterbury were 10th best off the tee, kicking at 71.7% for the season with main kicker Nick Meaney (68.8%) having a few issues. However, the freshly re-signed Averillo (80%) showed plenty of promise.

Players used

In a regular season, teams with the most players used tend to be the ones that finished near the bottom of the ladder and were wrecked by injury but that's one of the rules that has gone out the window a little in 2020, particularly with finals-bound teams resting and rotating plenty of players at different times.

The Dogs used 31 players in total, just one fewer than the four sides that used 32. The injuries struck early and often, with Foran, Averillo, Adam Elliott, Joe Stimson, Dylan Napa and Will Hopoate among those that missed significant game time through injury.

Form also played its part, with Dean Pay and then caretaker coach Steve Georgallis each struggling to settle on a preferred line-up as the results refused to come.

Losses by 6 points or fewer

There is possibly no statistic that better encapsulates Canterbury's season-long trend of mostly being competitive but struggling to get any reward than this one. A whopping seven losses by six points or under, almost double what any other team had to endure.

It started with a six-point loss back in round one against the Eels, who repeated the dose by two points in round 12, and it happened three times in a month from rounds 14 to 17.

The Dogs were only on the wrong side of four scorelines that really got away from them and three of those – against the Roosters, Storm and Panthers – were top four sides.

For fans, it's almost more frustrating losing strings of games by small margins than big ones but the blue and white faithful can at least take heart that despite the injury and form and roster issues, the team never threw in the towel.

Tackle efficiency

The basic principle of sticking your tackles is one that will need work over the summer for Trent Barrett and his troops. Canterbury finished 2020 with the second-worst effective tackle rate and second-most missed tackles.

On average they missed just over 32 per game, with only Cronulla faring worse. They averaged almost 17 ineffective tackles per game as well (where a tackle is initiated but the ball carrier is able to pass or offload after contact) to be second-worst there also.

For total missed tackles, Jeremy Marshall-King (55), Josh Jackson (46), Lachlan Lewis (43) and Dylan Napa (40) racked up the most while for overall tackle efficiency, the backline had its issues with the likes of Watene-Zelezniak (70.3%), Meaney (72.8%), Reimis Smith (75.6%), Hopoate (76.3%) and Averillo (76.5%) struggling to stick their one-on-ones.

2020 Form Guide

Round Opposition Venue Result
1 Eels Bankwest Stadium, Sydney Lost 8-2
2 Cowboys ANZ Stadium, Sydney Lost 24-16
3 Sea Eagles Central Coast Stadium, Central Coast Lost 32-6
4 Dragons Bankwest Stadium, Sydney Won 22-2
5 Roosters Bankwest Stadium, Sydney Lost 42-6
6 Sharks Bankwest Stadium, Sydney Lost 20-18
7 Wests Tigers Bankwest Stadium, Sydney Lost 34-6
8 Rabbitohs Bankwest Stadium, Sydney Lost 26-10
9 Broncos Suncorp Stadium, Broncos Lost 26-8
10 Dragons WIN Stadium, Wollongong Lost 28-22
11 Knights McDonald Jones Stadium, Newcastle Won 18-12
12 Eels ANZ Stadium, Sydney Lost 18-16
13 Storm Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast Lost 41-10
14 Wests Tigers Bankwest Stadium, Sydney Lost 29-28
15 Warriors ANZ Stadium, Sydney Lost 20-14
16 Raiders GIO Stadium, Canberra Lost 34-20
17 Titans ANZ Stadium, Sydney Lost 18-14
18 Sea Eagles ANZ Stadium, Sydney Lost 32-20
19 Rabbitohs ANZ Stadium, Sydney Won 26-16
20 Panthers ANZ Stadium, Sydney Lost 42-0