The appointment of Michael Ennis as skipper is a big plus for the Bulldogs
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Can Hasler weave his magic?
Des Hasler's record as Manly coach was phenomenal. In his eight years at the Sea Eagles, he missed the finals only once - in his first season. He won two premierships in 2008 and 2011, and arguably should have won a third, given Manly were beaten by Melbourne in the 2007 grand final before the Storm were stripped of that title for serious salary cap breaches. His arrival at the Bulldogs is a perfect fit for the club and the individual, who both embrace a siege mentality.
Hasler is known for backing his players through thick and thin – as illustrated by his support for Brett Stewart when sexual assault allegations were made against the fullback in 2009. A salary cap scandal in 2002, which sent the Bulldogs from first to last after losing 37 competition points, and Coffs Harbour sexual assault allegations prior to the 2004 season both weren't big enough disruptions to prevent the club from winning the premiership that year. The aid of a big budget in the football department, along with the club's hunger for success, should see a coach of Hasler's calibre enjoy a stellar time at Belmore.
Are the Bulldogs due for success after two years of mediocrity?
Canterbury will be desperate for a return to the top after a pair of forgettable seasons. In 2010, they never looked like matching 2009 (when they made the preliminary final) with just nine wins from 24 matches. Last year, after winning their first three games and leading the competition, the Bulldogs missed the finals (with an inferior points differential to Newcastle, who jagged eighth spot). Their '10 and '11 failures to reach the play-offs mark the first time the club has gone consecutive seasons without finals football since 1989-90. Canterbury don't like, and aren't used to, premiership droughts. Their last three titles, in 1988, 1995 and 2004, all came relatively close together. Now, after eight years since their last triumph, the Bulldogs will be hoping CEO Todd Greenberg's masterstroke in signing Hasler, and the appointment of highly-competitive hooker Michael Ennis as skipper will ensure their next ultimate success isn't a long way away. By their standards, they are due.
Should they have kept Jamal Idris?
Idris's talent and youth make him a wanted man at any NRL club. But the question is, at what price? His lapses in concentration in defence would have frustrated Bulldogs fans throughout 2011. He began the year at the peak of his powers, earning an Australian jumper in the early-season Test against New Zealand. However, he amazingly went from being suitable for Test football to unsuitable for Origin football, and missed selection in all three matches. It was a justifiable snub from the Blues, a snub which may have left the Bulldogs thinking they were right not to pursue him. Reports suggested the Titans forked out $1.8 million for Idris's services over five years – if the Bulldogs had to match or better that offer to keep him, their money was probably safer spent elsewhere.
The retirement of Andrew Ryan takes a chunk of experience away, but the arrival of James Graham from St Helens - the 26-year-old England prop who made the six-man shortlist at the 2011 Golden Boot award, is likely to bolster their stocks up front.
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