Trent Barrett won’t be able to turn last year’s equal last-placed Bulldogs into a force overnight – but fate has given him a chance to put a broom through the club’s ranks for 2022.
Some 15 players – exactly half the Bulldogs’ 30 man roster – come off contract at the end of this season, putting massive pressure on them to perform.
And if they don’t, Barrett will be able to put a broom through the ranks and buy himself the squad he wants for next season.
Players in the spotlight include Dean Britt, Christian Crichton, Will Hopoate, Sione Katoa, Lachlan Lewis, Jeremy Marshall-King, Nick Meaney, Dylan Napa, Ofahiki Ogden, Jayden Okunbor, James Roumanos and Chris Smith.
The Bulldogs already have a more formidable look to them for the coming season after winning just three games in 2020.
Barrett and his recruitment manager Dave Hamilton have bought well, getting rid of some dead wood and adding Nick Cotric (Raiders), Corey Allan (Rabbitohs), Corey Waddell (Sea Eagles), Jack Hetherington (Panthers) and Kyle Flanagan (Roosters) to their ranks.
The Bulldogs are a club that aren’t afraid to chase big game – and the pressure is on those 15 players coming off contract to perform in coming months.
MANLY’S TURBO REPLACMENT FIRMING
Former Bulldog Morgan Harper looks set to fill the biggest boots in rugby league in round one – the size 11s of injured ace Tom Trbojevic.
Trbojevic’s latest hamstring tear has left Manly coach Des Hasler in a dilemma, with Harper, Reuben Garrick, Jason Saab and Tevita Funa all in line to replace him.
Harper was handed the role in last weekend’s trial against the Tigers, and even though the below-strength Manly team copped a thumping, the youngster had a fair game.
His teammates believe Harper is the best player to start the season in the No.1 jersey, but Garrick – who was solid last season in the hot seat – may also get his chance in coming weeks.
CRICHTON NOT INTERESTED IN MOVE
Before a ball has been kicked in 2021, Angus Crichton is one of the hottest properties on the market for next season.
The Roosters back-rower was in superb form last season and also looked sharp running on the edges in the trial against Canberra in Queanbeyan on Saturday.
But rival clubs can save their time – Crichton has told friends and family he is more than happy at the Roosters and isn’t interested in a move elsewhere.
An intelligent, well spoken youngster with a private school education behind him, Crichton is being groomed as Roosters captain in years to come.
WESTS TIGERS EYEING HANDY BACK-UP
Journeyman hooker Zach Dockar-Clay is getting close to earning a deal with the Wests Tigers.
The 25-year-old former Junior Kiwi, who has had stints at the Eels, Panthers, Hull KR and Blacktown, could be a useful back-up for Michael Maguire with his ability to play both hooker and halfback.
He has yet to play in the NRL but looked good in his stint in England, helping Hull KR achieve promotion to Super League in his one season at the club in 2017.
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