Recap of last season
Having not made the finals since 2016, the Bulldogs were really hoping for a massive 2022, but it never eventuated. While 12th was an improvement of the 2021 wooden spoon, the Bulldogs never got going.
Trent Barrett was sacked as head coach halfway through the season and Mick Potter took over for the back half of the season. A third coach within 12 months will take over as Cameron Ciraldo takes the reigns for this season.
After being at the bottom of the ladder for so long the Bulldogs will hope that 2023 is another push forward in their rebuilding journey. Last season did show some promise, with wins over the Eels and a one-point victory over the Sea Eagles in the final round so there is certainly hope around this squad.
How can they improve
It looks like most of the improvement has already been done for the Bulldogs. No team has gone on such a big recruiting drive since the competition amalgamation in the late 90s.
Matt Burton will once again be relied on to have a big season, the good news for him is that he won't have to do it alone this time. With a massive attacking presence and a special relationship with the new coach, Burton will be key if the Bulldogs are to put enough points on the board to win matches in 2023.
Despite finishing 12th on the ladder the Bulldogs finished the 2022 season 15th in terms of tries scored with just 68 compared to 122 by the Panthers at the top. Another area to look at is goal kicking, which finished at a successful percentage of 72 per cent last season.
IN: Reed Mahoney, Viliame Kikau, Ryan Sutton, Fa'amanu Brown, Hayze Perham, Andrew Davey, Franklin Pele, Josh Reynolds
OUT: Jeremy Marshall-King, Matt Dufty, Paul Vaughan, Corey Allan, Aaron Schoupp, Jack Hetherington, Joe Stimson, Josh Jackson, Ava Seumanufagai
It's hard to go past the strong left edge of the field that the Bulldogs have put together in the off-season. Matt Burton of course plays a massive part as the five-eight but it's one massive recruit that will make the difference.
The Bulldogs went off to Penrith, largely thanks to their new coaches' connections to pick up the massive forward from Fiji, Viliame Kikau. He will likely combine with Burton and the fastest man in Australia Josh Addo-Carr to be one of the most dangerous attacking options in the NRL.
Bringing together so many high-quality players at once is both the Bulldog's biggest strength, but could also be a massive weakness. Unless Ciraldo is able to bring these players together quickly and develop a new system the Bulldog's hopes could be sunk before the season begins.
Another massive issue is the loss of Bailey Biondi-Odo due to an ACL injury leaving Kyle Flanagan to be the only halfback on the list. It's all good and well to have a strong attacking half but unless the squad is strong all around the field then there is no chance for the Bulldogs.
It's impossible to go past the young up-and-comer Paul Alamoti. While he is yet to play a match in the NRL the youngster scored four tries in the NSW Cup last year.
Unfortunately, though he can be somewhat of an injury concern, having missed three months of football with a syndesmosis injury. However, if he can stay fit he should have a massive season, likely starting round one due to the departure of Aaron Schoupp.
There is plenty of excitement around Alamoti and rightly so, but he will need to make sure that all the excitement doesn't get to his head. Bulldogs legend Willie Mason is particularly keen on Alamoti and has been working with the youngster in the off-season.
The Bulldogs are certainly a team on the rise, and with them having dug deep into the back of the couch to recruit during the offseason, they should be a side on the rise.
However, there are still questions to ask of the Bulldogs. They might have won their first pre-season match against the Raiders but a heavy loss against the Sharks is anything but impressive.
With a big-name new coach, and an attacking style Ciraldo has all the tools in the toolkit to succeed if he can get these big-name players to work together in an attacking style of football that should be fun to watch.
Ladder position: 12th
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