The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have ended their 2021 season in the best possible style with a thumping 38-0 win against the Wests Tigers at Moreton Daily Stadium in Redcliffe.
Despite four players representing the blue and white for the final time, the unity in the squad that Trent Barrett has built throughout the season was on display in spades. Whilst wins have been few and far between, effort has been consistent; something the players obviously brought into the match as a sign of respect to those wearing the club’s colours for the final time.
The Bulldogs hit the front early and were never headed, as dark and threatening clouds lurked in the sunshine state. However, the early minutes saw waves of attack that threatened the Canterbury line.
The resistance shown was old school, backs to the wall, Dogs of war stuff and as quickly as the pressure had been soaked up, Nick Meaney opened the scoring in the tenth minute when he crashed over on the right edge. Luke Brooks was brushed aside as Meaney bustled his way to the line, once again highlighting Brooks’ significant defensive deficiencies.
Meaney failed to convert his try, yet the Bulldogs were quickly over the line just three minutes later, when Jake Averillo pounced on a spilled high kick to double the lead. Meaney’s conversion stretched the margin to 10-0 and with injuries, HIA’s and indecision plaguing Wests’ attack, the Bulldogs appeared to warm further to the contest and challenge.
Astonishingly, the 26th minute saw a rare moment of luck for the Bulldogs in 2021, a stripping call on Brandon Wakeham went Canterbury’s way and the subsequent penalty goal extended the lead to 12.
When Jack Hetherington cut through the centre of the Tigers’ defence in the 30th minute, the Bulldogs earned a repeat set. Seconds later, Meaney crossed out wide after a superb set play that extended the lead to 16 and despite his conversion drifting wide, the enthusiasm, discipline and effort of the Dogs had the Tigers well and truly on the rack.
At half-time, a continued high rate of completions and defensive intensity would have been the clear instructions from Barrett. A fitting farewell for Will Hopoate, Dylan Napa, Sione Katoa and Nick Meaney would not have been mentioned, yet still on the minds of all the players as they took to the field for the final 40 minutes of the Bulldogs’ season.
The second half could not have begun better for Canterbury. A 42nd minute try to Jack Hetherington came after two Tigers lost their bearings and imploded in the process of diffusing a high kick. It was followed by another Meaney conversion and after 50 minutes of the match, the hapless Tigers remained scoreless.
After more superb defensive resilience from the blue and whites, Will Hopoate threw a pass he has thrown hundreds of times in his six seasons at Belmore; sending Jayden Okunbor over in the right corner to establish a 26-0 lead.
It was a fitting farewell for the man heading to the UK for the next phase of his career and no doubt, the entire Bulldogs supporter base sends its best wishes to him as he heads abroad.
The Bulldogs wave continued when Corey Allan crossed in the 67th minute, Meaney converted yet again and just five minutes later, Hopoate sent Averillo over for his second try and the provider was afforded the opportunity to convert and farewell the club he has served so well with a rare two points.
At 38-0, Bulldogs fans were cock-a-hoop, opposition supporters reaching for a comforting lockdown beverage and the entire rugby league community interested in what Canterbury will produce in 2022, especially considering the troops arriving in the off-season.
After a challenging year where coach Barrett has attempted to find the men he believes are prepared to challenge themselves and work towards the improved future of one of rugby league’s greatest clubs, the off-season now looks mighty promising.
Today, Aaron Schoupp, Brandon Wakeham and Jake Averillo reminded all Doggies fans of exactly what they are capable, Jack Hetherington was simply outstanding and Captain Josh Jackson remains an inspirational force in blue and white.
Whilst 10 players may be departing, the existing and arriving talent destined to form the bulk of the Bulldogs’ starting 17 in 2022, appears to be as promising a line-up as the club has seen for some time.
Considering the changes ahead and the influx of young talent, Canterbury-Bankstown could not have ended the season in a better way. The passion, effort and application against the Tigers was unquestionable.
With the new arrivals still to join the journey Barrett has begun, the Bulldogs’ future looks as bright as it has for some time.
Match: Wests Tigers v Bulldogs
Round 25 -
Venue: Moreton Daily Stadium, Redcliffe