News How rock bottom Dogs rediscovered their DNA... and the key signing set to end NRL circus


Kennel Enthusiast
Sep 29, 2014
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Article from Fox Sports -by
Darcie McDonald from Fox Sports@darciemcdonald
November 25th, 2022 6:59 am

No club has been through more changes over the last five years than the Bulldogs.

Since the start of 2018 there’s been five coaches, two overhauls of the board, two CEOs and a stack of players come and go.

But after several false starts, Canterbury-Bankstown look to be in their strongest position since the Des Hasler era (before it unravelled).

So strong in fact, that Michael Ennis — who led the Bulldogs to two grand finals — expects the club to play finals footy for the first time since 2016.

Speaking to, Ennis believes “there’s a lot to like” about the Bulldogs heading into next season — and when asked if they can make the top eight he said: “I think so, I really do.”

“I think they’re are on a great trajectory at the moment and their signings have been terrific,” he added.

Ennis is referring to Viliame Kikau, Reed Mahoney and Ryan Sutton, who have signed with the club for next season along with some promising fringe players.

They’ll join the Dogs’ brightest stars Josh Addo-Carr and Matt Burton, who not only have formed a thrilling combination, but are fresh of a successful World Cup campaign with the Kangaroos too.

Cameron Ciraldo is perhaps the most important piece to the puzzle though and despite being unproven at an NRL level, Ennis is confident he’s the right man to get the proud club back to its glory days.

“You bring in Cameron Ciraldo — a fresh change to their coaching approach. I’ve had a little bit to do with Cameron and I really like the direction that he’s taking the club,” Ennis said.

“It’s an exciting time for the Dogs.

“If he can get some early momentum there’s very few places like it when it gets going.

“It’s one of the great joints in rugby league and the fans are some of the best in the game.”

Those fans have had to endure five years of false hope, disappointment and turmoil but at the back end of last season there was a glimmer of light shining at the end of the tunnel.

The attack started to click and the team’s confidence went through the roof.

“You can see sides that have been under the gun for a number of years, when things start to turn, how the vibe, everything just takes off,” Matty Johns said on Fox League after the Bulldogs produced back-to-back wins.

The Bulldogs finally look ready to compete again — here’s how they got there.


The good news about claiming the wooden spoon? The only way is up.

That’s all Bulldogs fans could tell themselves after the club crashed and burned into a lonely last place finish in 2021 — eight points behind second last too.

Trent Barrett’s tenure as head coach began in miserable fashion. The Bulldogs didn’t score a point in three of their first four games and didn’t secure a win until Round 7. They became the second team in history to be held nil in three straight games and the 16 points they scored in the first four rounds was the fewest by any team since Glebe in 1928.

It looked like brighter days were ahead though when the club kicked off this year with a two-point win over the Cowboys — their first Round 1 win since 2016. But it didn’t mean much as six straight losses then followed.

There was a moment of hope after upsetting the Roosters in Round 8 but not even that could save Barrett, who was sacked just two weeks later.

The club was coachless and sitting last only two months into the season. If the wooden spoon wasn’t rock bottom, then this was.

Club great Mick Potter, who was coaching Mounties in NSW Cup and doing a bit of labouring on the side, was rushed in to take charge. Whether it was the fact there were no expectations or that he just simply had a better vision, something clicked in Belmore.

Although the Bulldogs lost their first game with Potter at the helm, they did score their most points for the season (22). The following week they topped that by two and the week after that put up a respectable fight against the eventual back-to-back premiers.

Then came the upset of the season — a 30-point shellacking of the Eels — followed by a big win over the Tigers. It was the Dogs’ first back-to-back wins in a season since 2019.


No longer were the Bulldogs the NRL’s easy beats — in fact they wound back the clock to even earn the ‘entertainers’ tag famously given to the club during the 1980s.

Sure, the 2022 side was a far cry from the side that boasted the likes of Steve Mortimer, Chris Anderson and George Peponis, but as any suffering rugby league fan will say, you’ve got to take the small wins.

Potter took a leaf out of 1980s coach Ted Glossop’s book and gave his players free rein.

He was asked on Fox League before the Eels game how he was planning on unlocking the Dogs’ attack and said: “Just getting the forwards to pass the ball a little bit more, freeing up our spine to go wherever they like.”

The forwards did exactly that with the ball going through Max King and Josh Jackson before finding halfback Kyle Flanagan, who put Jacob Kiraz through a whole to score.

Potter’s vision was a reality — and his players were big fans of their new style.

When Burton was asked about the turnaround during the season, he put it down to simply “playing more footy,” while Flanagan said: “the shackles are off now and we are excited by how we are playing.”

Jake Averillo, who enjoyed a switch to fullback under Potter, backed up his teammates.

“He tells us to play footy, if we see something just do it. Don’t worry about the consequences and it’s really working for us,” Averillo said.

“(It’s) just a change in mindset. I think we are playing every play on its merit. Before I think we were trying to get to a point for a play whereas now we’re playing eyes up and everyone’s pushing on the footy.”

Cooper Cronk even declared after their Round 20 win over the Knights: “It is must watch footy whenever the Bulldogs play.”

There were still some hard truths to come though as the ‘entertainers’ tag started to slip. The Warriors ran in seven tries against the Bulldogs in Round 22 and a week later the Eels got sweet revenge in a 42-6 thrashing.

But the season ended on a high — a thrilling one point win over Manly iced by Burton’s boot in the 78th minute.

The Bulldogs finished the season 12th and their new style of play mixed in with new signings on their way to Belmore ignited something that’s been missing in fans for years — belief.

Potter was rewarded for his efforts too with a job as an assistant coach next season.


No club has been more active in the player market than the Bulldogs, but perhaps the most important signing the club has made is general manager of football, Phil Gould.

As one of the most powerful figures in rugby league and the man credited for the Panthers’ production line of talent, Gould’s commitment was a huge coup for the Bulldogs.

Only his level of passion for the lower grades and developing talent could make up for the lost time under Hasler, whose tunnel vision caused a lot of players to slip through the cracks.

Gould played a key role in signing Mahoney and Kikau, while the next generation of talent — SG Ball, Jersey Flegg and NSW Cup — is beginning to thrive under his watch.

He’s also made an effort to inject the famous Bulldogs DNA back into the club by bringing back Willie Mason and Mark O’Meley as a pathways transition coach and defence coach respectively.

Born and bred Bulldog Josh Reynolds will get the chance to finish off his career where it started and that’s all thanks to Gould.

It’s moves like this that Ennis believes are important in rebuilding the club and will help instil a winning culture.

“I think you’ve got to know where you’ve come from,” he said.

“You’ve got to know the history of the jersey you’re pulling on and understand what the legacy is of that jersey. It’s got to stand for something, the jersey, when you pull it on every Friday night.

“It’s hard to understand that if you don’t know the history of where it’s come from and where it’s been.

“Some of the great players that have worn that jersey and been involved at successful times around the Bulldogs Cameron and Phil have brought back around, which is so important for the young guys to give them some foundations of what it means to wear that jersey.”


Although Gould is now spearheading the Dogs’ main recruitment and retention decisions, the club did land a couple of big fish before he arrived.

Burton had played just six NRL games when he signed with the club, but all the heavy hitters in rugby league knew just how talented he was. He’s now a premiership-winner — albeit it with Penrith — and has represented both his state and country.

Addo-Carr has arguably reclaimed the title of best winger in the game after a dominant World Cup. He’s also the unofficial king of Belmore... You can decide which is better.

But the club hasn’t always nailed it.

Aaron Woods and Matt Dufty didn’t even last a full season, then there’s Dylan Napa who was all bark but no bite.

Nick Cotric’s signing sounded great at the time but that fell well below expectations, the likes of Dean Britt, Sione Katoa and Joe Stimson filled gaps on paper but not so much on the field and the club is still trying to offload Corey Allan.

It’s taken several clean-outs but the roster is starting to look finals-worthy.

Burton has the biggest boot in the game and at 22-years old is still years off hitting his peak.

Addo-Carr’s speed is a huge asset and there’s a fire burning inside of him after being overlooked for Origin this year.

Jacob Kiraz has the makings of a superstar, Raymond Faitala-Mariner is finally back on the field, Luke Thompson is healthy and Pangai Junior is heading into the 2023 season with a brand new attitude.

Throw in Kikau — one of the best second-rowers in the competition — and the experience of Mahoney at dummy-half and finally the club will be able to field a genuinely competitive side.

Ennis, who played 136 games in the Bulldogs’ No.9 jersey, believes Mahoney in particular will be a hit.

“There’s a lot of up side in Reed, he’s 23-years old, he’s been on the cusp of Origin and was on Mal Meninga’s radar as a potential Kangaroo,” he said.

“The way he plays, Bulldogs fans just love a bloke that gives everything every week. He’s an important signing, it’s probably an area they’ve lacked for a little while.”

Andrew Davey, Hayze Perham, Franklin Pele, Jacob Preston and Ryan Sutton are some of the other new faces at the club.

The first four will have to fight for a spot in the 17, but Sutton is expected to be there come Round 1.

The workhorse forward is one to watch, according to Ennis.

“I love the signing of Ryan Sutton — he’s tough and there’s a lot to his game,” he said.

“He’s got a nice short pass that I think can really be beneficial for the way the Dogs like to attack.”


Rebuilding the Bulldogs goes well beyond the roster — and landing Ciraldo is an important piece to the puzzle.

He’s an NRL rookie but he is the man that every club in the market for a coach wanted — and the Bulldogs got him.

It was a statement move both on and off the field because as Ennis summed up: “It shows the club still has pulling power and is still one of the powerhouse clubs in the game when it gets going.”

The Bulldogs have been stuck in a toxic coaching cycle since the day Hasler was sacked in 2017.

The board rolled the dice on club great Dean Pay in what was also his first NRL head coaching gig.

Pay walked into a pretty grim set-up given the ghosts of Hasler’s back-ended deals were still haunting the club. He was ultimately chewed up and spat out after two-and-a-half seasons.

It was messy, just like Haslers’ exit. Pay was informed that his services wouldn’t be required beyond that season so he walked — and one of his assistants followed him out of loyalty.

Steve Georgallis stepped up in the interim for the rest of the 2020 season while the club moved quickly to find a long-term replacement.

Just nine days after Pay’s exit Trent Barrett was announced on a three-year deal beginning in 2021.

It was the feel-good story Dogs fans needed, after all he was said to be the mastermind behind the Panthers’ improved attack.

Barrett told Fox League’s NRL 360 at the time: “The lessons learned in three years as a head coach (at Manly) will put me in good stead for this.”

But the truth was he was out of his depth and no matter how many times Gould tried to hose down the rumours, the end was coming.

Barrett was shown the door after one-and-a-half seasons and the Bulldogs were back to square one.

St Helens coach Kristian Woolf was linked to the job, while there was also talk of keeping Potter at the helm.

But Gould was busy behind the scenes working on getting Ciraldo to the club — and part of that was offering him the security of a five-year deal.

Going all in on a rookie coach carries plenty of risk but Ennis is confident it’s the right move.

“Cameron’s obviously had great success at Penrith and not just overnight success — it’s sustained success through the lower grades, through his development and also as an assistant coach at the top level,” he said.

“He was thrust into the hot seat when Griffin was removed, he’s got Phil Gould who knows Canterbury as well as anyone and they’ve put a lot of Canterbury people back in the place to try and get it back to where it needs to be.

“I think Cameron will do a wonderful job, having spent limited time with him, I really like what his plans are for the place.

“The fans will be very excited that the club has been able to attract such a quality young coach with a great vision and great morals.”


One of the most pressing things Ciraldo will have to do is appoint a new captain.

Josh Jackson threw a spanner in the works when he announced his retirement with a year to go on his contract.

Jackson was the mature head that had rode all of the highs and lows at the club since debuting in 2012.

There’s no obvious replacement, but Ennis believes that’s OK.

When asked if it’s a concern that there’s no clear option he said: “I don’t think so, no.”

He acknowledged that Jackson will be a “big loss” but there’s a “wonderful opportunity” for others to step up.

He’s also a big believer that age doesn’t matter. A player is either captain material or they’re not.

“They are a young side and Josh, through some extremely tough times, he probably didn’t get the accolades he deserved for his leadership and his commitment to the club,” Ennis said.

“I admired him as a captain — I thought he did a hell of a job so it’s a big loss for them.

“But at the same time it’s a wonderful opportunity for a young leader and we saw guys in that environment this year. Someone like Cameron Murray, who just loved the opportunity to captain his club.

“So whether it is a Reed Mahoney or I haven’t had a lot to do with Matt Burton so I don’t know if he has aspirations in that area but the club no doubt would like to keep him there long term. It’ll be interesting.

“Penrith haven’t shied away from having young leaders and they’ve had great success with that. Just because you’re 30-years old it doesn’t mean you’re ready to be a leader.

“I remember rooming with Josh Jackson when he was 22 or 23-years of age and I was 30 — he was so ready for a role like that. Where there’s other guys that are 27 or 28 and have no interest in it so I think age is irrelevant.

“I think the Bulldogs need someone that’s going to lead by example every single week for the jersey, for the club and for their teammates. Cameron will find someone over the Summer who can do that.”

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Kennel Legend
Oct 26, 2020
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Uggh too much reading in that novel, any good? I'm super sceptical of the OP's postings..with good fkn reasons.


Kennel Legend
Nov 16, 2011
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Great article, well written.....IMO the FOX will be captain. Lets Trott Baby :grinning:



Super Moderator
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Premium Member
Apr 23, 2014
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Looking at another thread where people are listing our top 17 we would need alot of things to go our way to be a top 8 side. When you're talking about centre combos of Skelton/Alamoti/Burns/Allan and Flanno still in the halves it's very hard to see us challenging top sides.

Maybe next year when there's a further clean out and signings, if we're competitive next season and don't let sides put cricket scores on us it will be a positive.


Kennel Legend
Oct 26, 2020
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Looking at another thread where people are listing our top 17 we would need alot of things to go our way to be a top 8 side. When you're talking about centre combos of Skelton/Alamoti/Burns/Allan and Flanno still in the halves it's very hard to see us challenging top sides.

Maybe next year when there's a further clean out and signings, if we're competitive next season and don't let sides put cricket scores on us it will be a positive.
Yep Flanno will be gone and Allan..need at least one of the "boom" centres to rise up in 23 and who is our other medium to long term wingman to be..
Fullback too is still a question mark really..LOTS of developing still to be achieved Indeed.

D- voice

Kennel Addict
Mar 1, 2008
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Thank you Mr John Khoury and the board
Your sacrifice commitment and unfazed passion combined with your zealous dedication has brought back into the club the best possible team of experts in Gus Gould Aaron Warburton and the best young coach Cameron Ciraldo.
I could sense hope, I can see a brighter light at the end of a very dark tunnel as the rebuild continuous...
Now the hard work is almost done, Let the games begin !!!


Kennel Immortal
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Aug 4, 2007
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Its been reposted. Looks similar to one he already posted a few weeks back lol.
This story as is was only posted today on 9s website. There will probably be a few similar stories by next season. And yeh we dont ban ppl for posting duplicate threads anyway lol.