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Under new coach Kevin Moore – son of former club patriarch, the late Peter Moore – the Bulldogs reclaimed their status as the “family club” with the addition of several high-quality footballers with high morals. The result was one of the great turnarounds in premiership history. After finishing with the wooden spoon in 2009, the Bulldogs were unlucky to miss out on the minor premiership and pushed Parramatta all the way in the preliminary final. The club will revert to the name Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in 2010 for the first time since 1994, coinciding with their 75th anniversary as a premiership side.


Strengths

The Bulldogs immediately gelled last season despite a completely new-look line-up. The combinations they forged to such great effect in 2009 will flourish with another off-season under their belts. Several players in key positions are in career-best form, while Ben Hannant, Josh Morris and Bryson Goodwin experienced Test football for the first time in the 2009 Four Nations. Michael Ennis was unlucky not to join them and is one of the NRL’s most valuable players.

Weaknesses

There are not many weaknesses looking at the Bulldogs line-up, but depth in the halves could be a problem if injury strikes, particularly with the departure of reliable back-up Daniel Holdsworth. Cronulla signing Blake Green will shore up the gap to an extent. The Bulldogs’ playing stocks is also bound to be depleted by State of Origin in the middle stages of the year.

Comings and Goings

In Melbourne dual premiership-winning winger Steve Turner the Bulldogs have acquired a ready-made replacement for club legend Hazem El Masri, while exciting young Panther Junior Tia Kilifi will also be gunning for the vacant wing spot. Versatile Kiwi international Dene Halatau offsets the loss of Greg Eastwood to Leeds, and big Dragon Mickey Paea adds more depth and starch to Canterbury’s forward ranks. Several players deemed surplus to requirements have headed elsewhere, including former Test winger Matt Utai and hooker/half Michael Sullivan.


Young Guns

2009 Dally M Rookie of the Year Jamal Idris is still only 19, while livewire half Ben Barba will be pressing for more first grade opportunities after two seasons waiting in the wings. Barba spearheaded feeder club Bankstown City’s 2009 NSW Cup grand final victory with three tries. The Bulldogs National Youth Cup side finished 11th in 2009, and the club did not blood any NYC players in first grade last year.

X-factor

Brilliant but enigmatic five-eighth Ben Roberts enjoyed his best season to date in 2009, proving the perfect for No. 7 Brett Kimmorley. The diminutive former-Kiwi stamped himself as a genuine game-breaker after publicly swearing off alcohol, and shapes as a trump card for the Bulldogs in 2010.

Under Pressure

The Bulldogs have had the luxury of arguably the competition’s best goalkicker for the past 16 seasons in Daryl Halligan (1994-2000) and Hazem El Masri (2001-09). El Masri’s retirement puts the heat on Michael Ennis, Steve Turner and Brett Kimmorley to consistently convert four points into six.

Anticipated Clash

Round 8 vs Parramatta. The two sides turned on a classic preliminary final, with the Bulldogs going down bravely 22-12 to the electric Eels. These teams have a colourful history against each other and with both sides cemented as NRL powers this should be one of the games of the season.

2010 Predictions

With such a well-balanced side and an astute mentor in Dally M Coach of the Year Kevin Moore, another top-four spot beckons for the Bulldogs. The challenge will be to avoid a mid-season slump during a taxing Origin period and going a step further than 2009. Canterbury needs to avoid Parramatta becoming a bogey side for them, but are undoubtedly leading contenders for the crown.
2nd in minor premiership – beaten preliminary finallists

Best Line-up

1. Luke Patten
2. Steve Turner
3. Josh Morris
4. Jamal Idris
5. Bryson Goodwin
6. Ben Roberts
7. Brett Kimmorley
8. Ben Hannant
9. Michael Ennis
10. Michael Hodgson
11. Gary Warburton
12. Andrew Ryan (c)
13. David Stagg

14. Dene Halatau
15. Yileen Gordon
16. Jarrad Hickey
17. Chris Armit


NB: This article was originally published on Suite101.com
Link: Really Long Link
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2010 Preview - North Queensland Cowboys

December 14th 2009 08:19
North Queensland Cowboys

Besides perhaps only the Warriors, North Queensland were the biggest disappointments of 2009. The Cowboys faded badly to lose six of the last eight games and crash out of finals contention after sitting snugly in fifth place after Round 18. They had recovered from a poor start that sent the rumour mill into overdrive about a rift between coach Neil Henry and captain Jonhnathan Thurston. The inspirational skipper was outstanding in 2009, but he needs far more support if the club is to return to September football for the first time since 2007. Thurston’s contract negotiations for beyond next season are looming over the Cowboys and any decision to move on could have a derisive effect on the squad that relies so heavily upon him.

Strengths: In Thurston the Cowboys have arguably the NRL’s most influential player, and with Willie Tonga and Matt Bowen he has world-class strike players outside him. The star trio scored 35 of North Queensland’s 98 tries in 2009. Hooker Aaron Payne’s combination with Thurston and Bowen is vital to the Cowboys’ chances.

Weaknesses: Since his arrival in 2005, North Queensland has struggled to settle on a halves partner for Thurston. Travis Burns and Grant Rovelli shared the role in 2009 with mixed results. Burns’s departure leaves Rovelli and fiery utility Anthony Watts as the only experienced options for the No. 6 jersey.

Comings and Goings: One of the quietest clubs on the player trade market, the Cowboys only signings of note are pint-sized fullback Shannon Gallant and the Ah Mau brothers, Leeson and Isaak, who have played just six first grade game between them. Hulking prop Shane Tronc’s loss to Wakefield will be keenly felt, while Burns will look to reignite his career with the Panthers after a difficult two-year stint in Townsville.

Young Guns: Few players were blooded by the Cowboys in 2009, but imposing back-rower James Tamou stamped himself as a potential star with a series of aggressive displays and Steve Rapira looks set to join brother Sam in the Kiwi side within the next couple of seasons.

X-Factor: North Queensland’s pack is full of big names, but failed to aim up in 2009, and needs to improve drastically if Thurston, Bowen, Payne and co. are to weave their magic and return the club to contender status. With internationals Luke O’Donnell, Antonio Kaufusi and Carl Webb, and the next crop of Queensland Origin forwards Matt Scott and Scott Bolton, the Cowboys need to transfer their strength on paper onto the field.

Under Pressure: Former Test and Origin prop Kaufusi was unable to rediscover his best form after signing with the Cowboys, and it was not difficult to see why he was bumped out of the Storm’s first-choice pack in 2008. Another average season could see him fishing for a UK Super League contract.

2010 Prediction: If Thurston decides to re-sign with the club it could give them the impetus to push for a top-four spot. But if he departs as expected, 2010 represents the Cowboys’ last realistic chance for a few years to claim a maiden premiership. That pressure has the potential to strangle a side not renowned for their consistency.
12th


-Best Line-up-

Matt Bowen
John Williams
Ashley Graham
Willie Tonga
Ty Williams
Grant Rovelli
Johnathan Thurston
Antonio Kaufusi
Aaron Payne
Matt Scott
Carl Webb
Scott Bolton
Luke O’Donnell

Anthony Watts
Steve Southern
Steve Rapira
James Tamou
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Highlights of the Four Nations

November 16th 2009 05:28

- Greg Inglis: Single-handedly saved Australia in the tournament opener against NZ, while his performance in the first half in the pool game against England was a masterclass. Quieter in the final, but still a quality display in which he finished off arguably the try of the tournament chasing down a Jarryd Hayne kick. Untouchable at times, and finished off a brilliant year on the field with the Golden Boot Award.

-Sam Burgess: The Rabbitohs have snared a special player in English powerhouse Sam Burgess. Big enough to play prop but has the mobility to comfortably play in the back-row, as he did in the final. Burgess breaks the line almost at will and is a great hole-runner, but the steps he put on Civoniceva and Slater will ensure he will be in every NRL coach's defensive brief in 2010.

-The world champion Kiwis are bitterly disappointed with their failure to qualify for the final after a lacklustre loss to England, but their display in the 20-all draw with Australia was first class. NZ were the better team on the day by quite a margin, and would have relished a repeat showdown with the rattled Kangaroos.

-The Rookies: AUS Brett Morris scored six tries in his first four Tests, finding himself in the starting XIII after initially missing out on the touring squad; twin brother Josh bagged a double on debut against France; Michael Jennings scored a hat-trick on debut in a man of the match display against France and put considerable pressure on veteran centre Justin Hodges for a spot in the final; forwards Ben Hannant, Brett White and David Shillington all proved they were worthy of call-ups to the national side.

NZ Unearthed an impressive talent in aggressive forward Jared Warea-Hargreaves, who played just five games for Manly this year but appeared in all three Tests on tour; Junior Sau was a powerhouse in the centres, causing Australia's left-side defence constant headaches and scoring a barnstorming try; Bryson Goodwin backed up his remarkable year with the Bulldogs to clinch a wing spot for the Kiwis. Proved himself as a fine goalkicker as well as an accomplished finisher; Manly five-eighth Keiran Foran debuted out of position at centre against England and let nobody down. Shapes as a long-term Test player for NZ; Roosters' prop Frank-Paul 'the Wrecking Ball' Nu'uausala stepped up in the absence of Roy Asotasi to form a great front-row combination with Fui Fui Moimoi, scoring NZ's opening try against Australia.

ENG Young halves Kyle Eastmond and Sam Tompkins handled the step up to international level with aplomb, and will come to the antipodes for next year's Four Nations even better players. Eastmond was magnificent in the defeat of NZ that propelled England into the final.

-Billy Slater vindicated his retention of the fullback spot, despite calls to for Jarryd Hayne to move in to the No. 1 role. Scoring five tries in two games against England, including three in the final, Slater continued his devastating form from the NRL finals. His brilliant tap-back from over the dead-ball line for Cam Smtih to score underlined his status as one of the top five players in the world.

-France provided far more resistance for the three world Rugby League superpowers than expected. They led England at halftime in the tournament opener and held NZ and Australia to 16-6 and 8-0 at the break respectively, before being overrun by their more experienced rivals. Another great sign for the future was the prominence of French players among the standout performers, rather than resedentially-qualified Australians, although Clint Greenshields was superb throughout the tournament. Coach Bobby Goulding's drunken night at the RLIF awards took some of the gloss off a great tournament for the French, but there are great signs for the future. Disappointly, France won't get the chance to play Australia and NZ for another two years - and the only way for the weaker nations to improve is to have the chance to consistently play against the world's best.

-Although disappointed with the scoreline blow-out in the final, Tony Smith's English side will be delighted with their return to the fop shelf of international sides after last year's World Cup debacle. Showed tremendous character to claw their way back after trailing Australia 26-0 at halftime in the round-robin, and their win against world champs NZ was gritty and courageous. Pushed the Kangaroos all the way in the final and led well into the second half. The Poms will head Down Under for the 2010 Four Nations full of confidence.

-Darren Lockyer posted milestone after milestone during the Four Nations, but the Australian captain played as though he was as fresh as ever. He was one of the Kangaroos' best and took on more responsiblity with the ball than we have seen from him in three years in a representative jersey.

-Petero Civoniceva's achievement in breaking Johnny Raper's record for most appearances by an Australian Test forward speaks volumes for his toughness, durability and consistency. Still the number one prop in the game.

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2009 Season Review - Penrith Panthers

September 7th 2009 07:19

The Panthers' 11th-placed finish in 2009 suggests another season of disappointment at the foot of the Blue Mountains, but the club will take heart in the knowledge they were just 80 minutes away from their first finals appearance since 2004. It will also be a stinging reminder of what might have been for Matthew Elliott's men after they collected just one win from their last six matches - they were 5th heading into Round 22. Michael Jennings continued his meteoric rise to superstardom and debuted for NSW, while some of the club's veterans rediscovered their best form. Although injuries played a major part in Penrith's late-season collapse, questions should certainly be asked about the manner of their capitulation.

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The Warriors have roundly been dubbed the biggest disappointment of 2009, and with good reason. Tipped by many good judges as top-four specials and genuine title contenders, New Zealand started the year with two great wins but from that point on could not secure back-to-back victories, and finished above only the woeful Sharks and Roosters. After last season's rousing charge to the preliminary final, it is difficult to pinpoint what went wrong in 2009, but the Warriors' chronic inconsistency brought back memories of the bad old days of the late-1990s and 2004-05. Injuries put a big dent in the club's plans, and Ivan Cleary had difficulty settling on a steady line-up throughout the year, particularly in the halves. Stacey Jones' comeback was largely a success, and much of the criticism aimed at the Kiwi legend mid-season was unwarranted. Similar performances from the club in 2010 will surely see Cleary's head on the block, while management's decision to let World Cup halfback Nathan Fien go halfway through the year was a head-scratcher. His form in helping the Dragons secure the minor premiership is a clear indicator the Warriors got it wrong.

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NRL's Best of the Decade - Top 10 Hookers

1. Danny Buderus


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NRL 2009 - the run home: Titans

July 1st 2009 08:17
GOLD COAST TITANS

John Cartwright’s men have found themselves in a similar position in 2007 and 2008, only to falter on the stretch and miss the finals both years. Riding high in equal-first, the Titans have a golden opportunity to bury the memories of those fadeouts and qualify for their maiden post-regular season campaign. As they did in their first two years, injuries are beginning to be a major disruption for the Gold Coast, and a large share of the load will fall on the club’s brilliant crop of rookies to help Prince, Campbell, Friend and Laffranchi get them home


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NRL 2009 - the run home: Eels

July 1st 2009 07:36
PARRAMATTA EELS

It’s hard to imagine a more tumultuous start for incoming coach Daniel Anderson – a shaky start on the field leading to lynchpin half Brett Finch effectively being forced out of the club. More bad form and injuries exacerbated the situation, while boardroom shake-ups were an unwelcome distraction. The Eels' mini-resurgence over the past month can be summed up in two words – Jarryd Hayne. The NSW Origin star has exploded, and with the help of the Ray Price of this millennium, Nathan Hindmarsh, the Eels find themselves only three competition points away from the top-8


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Next in the series of the '00's best, the top 10 custodians:

1. Darren Lockyer


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NRL 2009 - the run home / Dragons

July 1st 2009 06:16
With just ten rounds remaining and the representative schedule all but out the way, the whips are really about to start cracking as the top-8 begins to take shape. Just three teams - Dragons, Storm, Sea Eagles - that made the finals in 2008 are sitting in the top half of the competition after Round 16, while '08 top-4 sides Cronulla and Sydney find themselves in the bottom-3. Pre-season favourites Brisbane and New Zealand are currently outside the eight, but just three wins seperates first and ninth, and a mad scramble for positions is about to unfold. Statistically, every team in the NRL is still a finals contender, with critics so far only prepared to book the Roosters in for their post-season holiday in September.

The following is a club-by-club breakdown on why each team is where they are now, and where they will end up


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