Wednesday 16 August 2017 / 11:20 PM

SIX UP THE MIDDLE: CANTERBURY IN CRISIS

The Bulldogs are in crisis and a long way from being relevant again. Here is where they are going wrong.

Style

Canterbury are without doubt the worst attacking team in the premiership. They are awful to watch, playing an outdated style with the ball that offers nothing. They are slow. They play over-structured. They don’t run. They can’t get the ball out of the ruck. Big forwards are always in the way. Des Hasler has set up a system designed for robots and then filled it with players who cannot execute.

The Spine

There is no less effective spine in the NRL. Even Newcastle have a more dangerous spine than Canterbury. Will Hopoate is safe but offers nothing in attack. Michael Lichaa is the least effective starting hooker in the game. Moses Mbye is barely a first grader. Josh Reynolds tries but there is only so much he can do.

Recruitment

Des Hasler likes to operate his team with a top-down approach, paying little heed to the pathways at the club for first grade. As such Canterbury have gone and splashed out on some epic failures. Hopoate has barely delivered. Tony Williams was one of the great busts. Lichaa is maybe the worst recruit in club history after it forced Michael Ennis out of the club.

Speed

Canterbury are the slowest team in the premiership and that moves across almost every facet. They have no pace in the three-quarter line following Curtis Rona’s departure. They cannot move the ball quickly. They can’t get the ball quickly out of dummy-half. Edge defenders can’t move laterally with speed. The Bulldogs are far too slow.

Attitude

Canterbury are a team whose identity is built on hard-nosed defence, fire-and-brimstone contact and a belief that others fear them. Nobody fears the Bulldogs. Their attack, as noted, is limp. Their defence, though, has been porous at times with a lack of commitment in tackling that would appal those Bulldogs who came before.

The Coach

Some clubs are run by their chairmen or owners. Others by the CEO. Poor clubs like the Tigers by the players. Others, by the coaches. At Melbourne, it works because Craig Bellamy has never had a poor season. Hasler has that same kind of power and has sent the Bulldogs spiralling to the bottom of the ladder. He refuses to adapt stylistically. He is slavish to a sports science he seemingly doesn’t understand. He is a poor identifier of talent yet stubbornly sticks with those he has ticked off.

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About the author

Nick Tedeschi

You will not find a more passionate rugby league man than Nick, whose Making The Nut column has garnered a huge cult following over the last decade. The Sydney-based raconteur co-authored The Book of NRL Lists with CBS stablemate WILL EVANS in 2014 and has penned several other books; he joined the CBS team with his weekly Six Up The Middle feature in 2016.

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