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Why it might take a decade for the Bulldogs to turn things around

Those were the standards they set at Belmore, the war-room in which generations of players were imbued with a certain way of doing business whether the team was running first or last.

They never wanted to let down the greats of the past, whose presence was always felt.

The Bulldogs have started this year with some big losses, andit could be a long time till they are back on top.

The Bulldogs have started this year with some big losses, andit could be a long time till they are back on top.Credit:Getty

Canterbury-Bankstown Rugby League Football Club is now a shadow of its former self and the game is worse for it.

Their winless start to the season, including a 28-0 loss to Penrith and 24-0 defeat against the hapless Broncos, is a frightening reminder that once you dig yourself a deep hole in this game, it can take a long time to climb out.

Some reckon it will take a decade. Do the ever-bickering factions at the Bulldogs have that much patience? Is rather talkative major sponsor Arthur Laundy in it for the long haul? And will they all stand back and allow new coach Trent Barrett to unravel the mess?

We won’t trawl over all the sins of the past but the decision to import players, not breed them, has been a grave error of judgement. Very un-Bulldogs.

The salary cap has been out of whack for years with silly money thrown at the likes of Aaron Woods (who played half a season after signing for four) and Kieran Foran (who played 40 matches in three seasons, many of them injured).

More recently, Dallin WateneZelezniak was signed from Penrith on fullback money – even if he’s best suited to the wing. Canberra couldn’t compete with the Bulldogs on Nick Cotric who has been signed on centre money – even if he’s also best suited to the wing.

England prop Luke Thompson arrived last year with a big reputation and on even bigger money – reportedly $800,000 a season – but is yet to show he was worth the spend. He returns from a four-match ban for an eye gouge next week.

Then there’s the handful of players in their top 30 who in days gone by wouldn’t have got a look at those lockers let alone hang their clothes in them.

With 15 players coming off contract at the end of this year, the club will be one of the most active in the player market.

But how many quality players will they attract, at what price, if the they continue to lose in the manner in which they have?

It’s not all bad, though.

Next year, Matt Burton arrives from Penrith. He kicks the ball so far you think he’s played at altitude. Josh Addo-Carr is also coming. He runs so fast he makes the others look like they’re in slow motion.

But what the Bulldogs really need is a hooker, which under the new rules has become the game’s most important position.

They went hard at Brandon Smith but he’s expected to stay at the Storm. The club is reportedly sniffing around Warrington’s Daryl Clark, a former Man of Steel in the Super League who the Dogs hope can be their Josh Hodgson.

Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett has a long road ahead of him.

Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett has a long road ahead of him.

These changes might be a sugar hit for both fans and the under-pressure board, whoever’s on it by 2023 after next year’s elections, but it won’t guarantee long-term success.

The man charged with turning it around is Barrett, who is quickly finding out how much work is ahead of him.

It won’t get much easier against Souths in the traditional Good Friday match at ANZ Stadium, then the Storm the following week.

“When I leave the joint – whether that be in three years, five years or 10 years – I want to leave it in a better place than when I got here,” Barrett told the Herald in a recent interview.

It might take that long.

They count success at Belmore in premierships. It’s in the woodwork. It’s in the lockers. But Canterbury appear to be years away from becoming their former selves.

Head check

The bizarre call from the ARL Commission to introduce an 18th man replacement for concussions has backfired spectacularly.

It’s the signature tactic of chairman Peter V’landys to throw an idea against the wall, through the media, to see if something sticks before implementing it.

Last year, it was Phil Gould consulting to the NRL. This year, it was bringing NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller onto the ARLC. Last week, it was the notion of allowing like Jason Taumalolo to play State of Origin.

Canberra players Ryan James and Sebastian Kris were concussed in the same tackle last week, but that wouldn’t have been enough for the Raiders to use their 18th man.

Canberra players Ryan James and Sebastian Kris were concussed in the same tackle last week, but that wouldn’t have been enough for the Raiders to use their 18th man.Credit:NRL Photos

This week, it was the 18th man edict which has already been widely panned by coaches, players and fans ahead of its introduction for round five.

The move sounds very much like an arse-covering exercise as the game grapples with the concussion monster. The rigid criteria suggest as much.

How often does a team lose three players in one match to concussion? And why not use the 18th man that travels with every team, to every match, instead of an “emerging player”, which is yet to be defined?

Because the game fears coaches will take the bench with a fresh middle forward who they can call on late in the match.

So you’re bringing in a rule, that will never be invoked, but making it so out of reach because you don’t trust coaches to do the right thing?

Even for The Great PVL, that’s madness.

The commission should’ve made the harder call of allowing players concussed through foul play to be replaced by the 18th man.

On a positive note, it was good to see common sense prevail with Canberra coach Ricky Stuart escaping sanction for his passionate media conference after the loss to the Warriors.

As we understand it, the NRL went close to fining him. That would’ve been a new one: whacking a coach for not criticising the referee.

Rise for Mose

When I visited former Roosters wrecking ball Mose Masoe in the spinal injury ward at Pinderfields Hospital in England’s north just over a year ago, the first thing I noticed was his 1000-watt smile.

His positive attitude, after suffering a catastrophic spinal injury while playing a pre-season match for Hull Kingston Rovers, was inspiring.

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Masoe is back in Australia but can only walk a few steps and has little feeling in his hands.

He needs the rugby league community to wrap its arms around him because the English Rugby League insurance policy afforded him very little compensation.

His partner of 10 years, and mother to his three young children, Carissa, has become his full-time care giver, providing around the clock assistance.

The Men of League has come to his aid, but you can also donate at www.menofleague.com/mose-masoe.

Paine’s relief

As the debate cranks up about Steve Smith becoming Australian captain once more, here’s a little morsel about how close the current officeholder, Tim Paine, went to walking away from the game.

It comes from Greg Chappell, no less.

“In the winter of 2016, Michael Farrell, who was State Talent Manager for Tasmania, rang me to say that Tim was considering retirement from cricket to take up a sales rep role with Kookaburra Sports,” Chappell said. “I was in Hobart soon after that and arranged to meet Tim for a coffee where we talked about life and cricket. Tim was frustrated with his cricket and thought it might be time to consider a career after cricket.

“I said to him if his lifetime ambition was to be a sales rep then it was probably worth considering, but if he still harboured ambitions of playing Test cricket, then it might be worth one more season to see how it goes.”

Thankfully, he heeded Chappell’s advice. Paine added another 31 Tests, 23 as captain, and led Australia to England, where they retained the Ashes.

Paine will be the guest speaker at the Chappell Foundation’s annual dinner at the SCG on May 12. You can get tickets at www.thechappellfoundation.com.

The week

THE QUOTE
“I am the MVP. I mean, it’s just that simple. I don’t want to be speaking individually on myself. I am just going to leave it at that.” – OFFICIAL: Brooklyn Nets superstar James Harden is my new spirit animal.

THUMBS UP
Tim Tszyu
’s ascent continued with his dismantling of Dennis Hogan in Newcastle. What next? If there’s one topic Tszyu dislikes talking about more than his father, Kostya, it’s fighting Michael Zerafa. But if a world title fight can’t be made, expect it to happen within months.

THUMBS DOWN
Surely the penny dropped for Rob Penney – I’m here all week – when the Tahs recently declared he had the full support of the board. The coach was sacked this week after NSW’s 0-5 start to the season. Now for those higher up the chain to fall on their sword.

IT’S A BIG WEEKEND FOR …
The Sydney Swans, who must now travel to the MCG to take on Dustin Martin and the mighty Richmond Tigers without their talismanic forward Lance Franklin.

IT’S AN EVEN BIGGER WEEKEND FOR …
Sam Walker. What were you doing when you were 18? I was working in a service station, sneaking Mars Bars and Slush Puppies between cars. This kid makes his NRL debut for the Roosters against the Warriors at the SCG on Sunday.

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