The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs finished a successful regular season in 4th spot for the second year in a row, but the reigning champions were left disappointed after being eliminated from the finals in straight sets.
Despite winning 12 matches throughout the season, the Bulldogs struggled to find consistent winning form and will be rueing a 1-6 record in their final seven games of the year.
Although there were plenty of positives to come out of 2019 with seven players from the Round 1 line-up earning multiple first-grade appearances, constant changes in the Bulldogs’ personnel may have contributed to an erratic form line across the 24 rounds.
Their highlight moment
Round 11 v Mounties - 52-22 W
While the score-line suggests that the Bulldogs were too strong in their clash against the Mounties, the most impressive part about the win was turning around what began as a 16-0 deficit after just 15 minutes.
The Mounties’ looked to have their opposition on the ropes, but the Bulldogs were quick to respond with six tries - including a Kerrod Holland double - before the halftime break and did not look back as they secured a 30-point win.
The Bulldogs continued their ambush in the 2nd half by scoring four more unanswered tries to put the result beyond doubt.
Simply their best
Morgan Harper made 21 appearances for the Bulldogs in 2019, producing an exceptional season that saw him named at centre in the Canterbury Cup NSW Team of the Year.
In a year where he excelled both defensively and with ball-in-hand, Harper now joins a host of outside back talents who have made their way into the Bulldogs’ NRL side in recent years.
Harper scored six tries this season with seven try-assists, eight line-breaks, seven line-break assists, 72 tackle-breaks (7th) and 2857 run metres (7th) including 946.7 post-contact. He was also one of the top defensive centres in 2019, averaging 12 tackles with 80.6% tackle efficiency.
Room for improvement
Although there is little to improve on for a Bulldogs side who have made the top-four three seasons running, they will no doubt be disappointed with their 2019 campaign having missed an opportunity to defend their crown.
If the Bulldogs can maintain a core group of players in key positions, however, the benefit of familiar combinations for a longer period of the season can certainly help them return to the Grand Final stage in 2020.
Soward's season grading
I underestimated the Bulldogs but they did fantastically well to finish where they did and I think they were just unlucky with injuries in the end but they had a great season.
There's some promising talent coming out of the squad and they can take confidence from their season and built it into something special in 2020.
This season grading is the opinion of Jamie Soward, based purely on performance factors throughout the 2019 season, and does not nessecarily reflect the views of NSWRL.