Season Summary: The Canterbury Bulldogs fell agonisingly short of a 2015 VB NSW Cup Grand Final appearance, going down in the preliminary final 44-20 against the Wyong Roos. Despite a bitterly disappointing finish, it was a largely successful season for the Bulldogs, who finished in fifth position with 14-11 win loss ratio. They proved to be one of the most expansive teams in the competition, possessing the ability to work off their enormous forward pack by constantly throwing the ball around that led to a flourish of points from their outside backs.
Coach Andy Patmore says: “[This season has been] pretty successful. I think a part of our process is development. Some of those kids out of [Under] 20s in the last couple of years are really starting to mature. Danny Fualalo, Adam Elliott, and Shaun Lane obviously with first grade experience this year, so on that side of things – very successful.”
Best Game: Patmore highlights two games against the Warriors as their best performances of the season. The first was in Round 13, where an impressive 52-8 performance saw the Bulldogs hand the Warriors their first defeat at home in 2015. The second was a Jaline-Graham inspired 33-20 victory in week two of the semi-finals, which saw them power their way into a preliminary final.
Worst Game: The Bulldogs’ 58-18 defeat at the hands of Mounties was their worst performance of the season. A stellar performance by Mitch Cornish got Mounties out to a 30-6 lead at halftime, before four tries in the final 10 minutes put the sword through the Bulldogs. A close second would be conceding a 34-12 lead against the Knights with 15 minutes remaining in round 20.
Turning Point: The round eight 58-18 loss to Mounties was the turning point for the Bulldogs’ season, as it gave them a loud wake-up call. The Bulldogs only lost one match after that game until round 20, which gave them serious momentum heading into the finals series.
Standout Performers: Patmore nominated Damien Cook, Danny Fualalo and Adam Elliott as the three most consistent performers in 2015. Despite several NRL appearances, Cook made 658 tackles throughout the season and kicked a 40/20 from dummy half, while Elliott managed 28 offloads and 187 runs.
Destined for the NRL: Tyrone Phillips is a try-scoring machine, topping the 2015 VB NSW Cup tally with 23 to his name. His is a classy winger and an excellent finisher, and had a mid-season run of eight tries in three games. Phillips will certainly get the opportunity to add to his one NRL appearance.
Future Focus: The Bulldogs successfully progressed from not playing finals in 2014 to preliminary finalists in 2015, and will continue to build next year off the back of the emergence of players such as Jaline Graham, Tyrone Phillips and Lloyd Perrett. They have a talented forward pack, with dynamic halves and one of the best back lines in the competition – the Bulldogs can only further improve in 2016.