Wests missed the top-four by a whisker last season and will be out to make amends with a finals berth this year. Let’s see how their season is shaping up under new head coach Carl Marshall.
2019 was a season of ‘what-ifs’ for Wests after the potential-stacked side missed out on a Hospital Cup finals berth by the slimmest of margins.
Arguably the competition’s most potent attacking outfit on their day, the Bulldogs dropped five games by a converted try or less to leave the side stranded just one-point adrift of the top-four at the end of the regular season.
The men from Sylvan Road will be out to turn that promise into a finals finish this season, however they’ll have to do it without a number of the club’s favourite sons, including captain Jerry Lynch (New Zealand), halfback Liam Dillon (Bond University) and rising star Isaac Henry (Brumbies Academy), who have all taken up offers elsewhere.
Talented flanker Connor Anderson will likely step into Lynch’s sizeable boots both as captain and in the backrow, while the club has looked in and out to replace Dillon, with a number of new recruits and players from within the club tussling for the starting number-nine jersey.
The Bulldogs also have a considerable void to fill in the loss of Henry, the competition’s highest points-scorer last season, with his midfield partners Hunter Paisami and Carter Gordon also likely to miss the majority of the campaign through Queensland Reds and Junior Wallabies commitments respectively.
Fred Keil may fill Paisami’s role at outside centre, while Josh Casey, who has arrived at the club from Taieri in New Zealand, is an option to step into the flyhalf jersey.
The scrum was an issue for the Bulldogs at points last season, and new head coach Carl Marshall has addressed that problem, with a number of frontrowers making waves in Toowong.
Marshall, who is returning to the club himself as coach, has snared former Queensland prop Gavin Luka from Bond University, while the promising Liam Usher has moved across-town from Brothers to combine in the front row with Bronson Fotuali'I who is fresh from a debut NRC season with Queensland Country.
The club has also lured the Skelton brothers – Lorenzo, Jeremy and Jeral – to Sylvan Road from Crosby Park, bringing a wealth of x-factor to their squad.
After the disappointment of last season, could 2020 be the year the Bulldogs return to the Hospital Cup finals?
THE INSIDE WORD
“It’s sort of like being back at home having played and coached here before, I’m really comfortable with the environment and think I’m making an impact which is what I set out to do.
“Everyone has certainly bought in to what we’re trying to do and we’ve come up with some ideas and strategies in terms of the way we train and the boys have responded really well and are pretty keen and self-motivated for the season.
“We’ve spoken about it as a group, the team last year didn’t fulfil their potential.
“They missed out on finals by a point and lost five games by less than seven points, so they were certainly good enough, but at those critical times they didn’t get the win and as a result missed out of the finals.
“That’s sort of driving the guys this year, there’s that hunger there and if you know you haven’t fulfilled your potential that’s going to keep motivating you.
“We’re developing strategies and solutions to respond to those in-game situations, I think last year they were trying to work out what to do in the game and it’s a bit too late then, so a lot of our training is about coming up with solutions to problems and by doing that, no matter what problem comes up we’ll have a strategy to solve it.”
- Carl Marshall
PLAYER TO WATCH
Connor Anderson will be instrumental for the Bulldogs in 2020 as the club looks to break back into the Premier Rugby top-four. Losing Jerry Lynch is a massive blow for the Bulldogs, however they have a more than capable and readymade replacement in Anderson, who continues to takes his game to new heights. Anderson’s industrious work across the park and commitment to training makes him one of the competition’s premier backrowers, and resulted in his NRC debut last season for Brisbane City. He’ll need to step up and lead Wests this year, and if last season is anything to go on, he’s more than up to the task.