As we approach the start of a new season I thought that I would take this opportunity to wish you a happy and prosperous 2019 and to give you a January update on how the club is shaping up leading into a new campaign.
With the new season approaching what can the fans expect from this year?
It's an exciting time to be a Bulldogs fan. There is a really good feel around the club and I think that we have a young and talented squad that will play some tough, uncompromising football this year. Last year we lost 8 matches by six points or less and if we can convert those narrow losses into wins then the season can have a totally different end result. Our new signings have all fitted in well and I know that Dean and his coaching staff are looking forward to what lies ahead.
There have been some difficult moments during the previous 12 months. What has the club learned?
There is no doubt that there have been tough times that we have had to deal with. I think that we have navigated those as well as we could have. Even though there has been a degree of negativity at times, our focus has always been on the long term future of the club. In terms of what we have learned I would say that the club is very resilient. We have taken steps to ensure that we make sure that we don't make the same mistakes twice and that we focus all our energies into our new team. We want to make our fans proud. That is the most important thing.
Where are the team at the moment in terms of expectations?
Dean and his staff have been able to bring in some players that will allow the team to play in a way that represents the coach's philosophy. The Bulldogs have always been known as a tough team to play against and we want to return to that way of thinking. The side showed towards the end of last season that they have the attacking capabilities to play exciting football and if we can combine that with a toughness and resilience then we will be a much improved team.
Can we expect player movement again this year?
We have confirmed our Top 30 squad with the final spot being filled by promising young centre Morgan Harper. We want to keep that group of players together. Last year was difficult in that we had to make some tough decisions on players to free up some cap space. That is never a nice thing to do and those conversations were hard. At the end of the day, however, it has allowed us to bring in some new players and plan for the future with some flexibility which is important to have.
Where does the club currently sit off the field?
Having sorted out a number of personnel issues and dealt with the aftermath of the end of the year, we are now in a position where we feel that we are settled and looking to move forward. We have filled all of our playing kit sponsorship assets and have made some major additions to our football staff, in addition to putting greater emphasis on junior and country rugby league. We also continue to work closely in the community as evidenced by a really great story involving Adam Elliott and Josh Jackson making a young man's day which I would encourage you to watch here.
Jackson and Elliott surprise a beloved Bulldogs fan
Where is the club likely to play its matches in the future?
Hopefully everybody has now seen the draw for next season which has some really 'family-friendly' time slots. Round 20 against the Panthers will see us play our first-ever game at the new Western Sydney Stadium, which we hope will be a great experience for all of our supporters in what will be a state-of-the-art facility. In the long-term we are working with the Government and the NRL to support the re-development of ANZ Stadium into a top-line rectangular stadium that will offer a fantastic supporter experience. Therefore the club in 2020 will be looking at options for our home matches which will include Western Sydney Stadium and other options for members including opportunities such as Magic Round venues.
What is your final message for fans?
Firstly, thank you for your ongoing support. You the members are the foundation of our existence and membership is all about a sense of belonging as part of a family and that close connection with your club. We are so lucky to have the most passionate fans in our sport and we are extremely grateful for your continued support. Last year was tough, but we are now on the right path and looking to return to where we need to be which is as a leader in this game. Everyone at the club is looking forward to making our fans proud again this season.