The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have welcomed day one of pre-season today, welcoming over 50 players back to the building from across the Jersey Flegg, SG Ball, NSW Cup, and NRL squads.
Wave one of returns sees the 2023 journey begin under Head Coach Cameron Ciraldo’s care and the players walking into a newly renovated gymnasium facility for fitness testing drills.
Among those players returning for the 2023 NRL train-on squad were Paul Alamoti, Corey Allan, Jake Averillo, Bailey Biondi Odo, Braidon Burns, Ray Faitala-Mariner, Kyle Flanagan, Max King, Jayden Okunbur, Tevita Pangai-Junior, Chris Patolo, Jackson Topine, and Corey Waddell.
Topine’s return to Belmore comes with the signing of a two-year contract extension that will see him stay on through the end of 2024.
He first made his debut for the Club in 2021 and was elevated to first grade after carving out a name for himself and setting the precedence for the talented youth coming through the ranks.
Young gun Declan Casey has also signed a one-year contract extension which sees him training on with the squad through the 2023 season.
Casey was first drafted by the Bulldogs in 2019 and had played 11 NSW Cup games before earning his opportunity to take to the top grade, stepping in on the 2022 season as a replacement for the injured Corey Allan.
The 22-year-old now hopes to add some more NRL games in 2023 but will first need to recover as he is four weeks post-shoulder surgery. He was in the facility to do rehab alongside his teammates today and will be looking to return to full training over the coming months.
Upgraded to train with the top squad in 2023 are Sam Hughes, Jeral Skelton, and Brandon Clarke of the 2022 NSW Cup Team who narrowly lost out on the grand final win against Penrith Panthers.
Recruits, Andrew Davey (former Manly player) and Jacob Preston (Roosters/North Sydney Bears) were proudly in the Bulldog’s kit for the first time today and will be joined by additional Club recruits Franklin Pele (Sharks), Ryan Sutton (Canberra), Reed Mahoney (Parramatta) and Hayze Perham (Parramatta) over the coming month.
Viliame Kikau will finally don the Blue & White in 2023 after signing a four-year deal. The now dual Premiership winner will reunite with Ciraldo and his new team in the new year, following some well-earned downtime off the back of the NRL grand final and his Fijian World Cup matches.
Fellow players to link up with the Bulldogs squad following Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) campaigns, include Jacob Kiraz, Khaled Rajab (train-and-trialist), Josh Addo-Carr, Matt Burton, and Luke Thompson who have been representing Lebanon, Australia, and England respectively.
Thompson, Addo-Carr, and Burton are still overseas through to the RLWC semi-finals with the Kangaroos due to come up against New Zealand and England to take on Samoa.
NSW Cup and test-and-trial players were also among the squad putting their fitness to the test today, with Kurtis Morrin, Billy Tsikrikas, and former Bulldog Josh Reynolds among the group vying for a place in the top 30.
The Canterbury Coaches and Football Staff worked extremely hard to have everything ready for the incoming group, leaving no stone unturned off the back of a three-day Football department conference where Ciraldo and Phil Gould shared their vision for the team and development programs – now officially titled ‘the Bulldogs’ Academy’.
“This is just the start of the journey,” Ciraldo said of day one.
“The hard work starts now.”
28 of the Top 30 have now been announced, with the final position yet to be confirmed.
Top 30 Squad for 2023
|Josh Addo Carr
|Tevita Pangai Junior
* Updated squad list as of November 9 2022