The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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After what can only be described as the lowest ebb in the club's 73-year history in 2008, the Bulldogs are by far and away the success story of 2009. A clean-out of the riff-raff and the wise purchasing power utilised by the available funds has seen the old Berries sitting joint competition leaders as we pass the halfway mark, and life couldn't be any better for the blue and whites.
Well, that's not entirely true. Even in their amazing successes this year they haven't escaped scrutiny, first losing two competition points in the Round 2 clash with Penrith at CUA Stadium for fielding a 14th player in the final minute as they crossed for the match-winning try. This loss of points was compounded in Round 10 when an admittedly incorrect decision regarding obstruction by Video Referee Steve Clark saw a match-winning try to Jamal Idris disallowed against the Dragons at WIN Jubilee Oval.
The difference of course with the Bulldogs this year is that those body blows haven't dented the confidence of the players or new coach Kevin Moore, and they've continued their winning ways well into what is now the second half of the season.
The Story So Far
The boys in blue and white opened proceedings this year by putting a convincing 34-12 scoreline on defending premiers Manly, and have continued in much the same vein ever since.
Following the Round 2 controversy, the Bulldogs fell short of a professional Titans outfit in Round 3 and then didn't drop a game until that fateful night against the Dragons at Kogarah in Round 10, in that time disposing of a number of teams mooted as contenders for the top eight. A particular highlight was a quality game against the Wests Tigers in Round 8, which showcased Michael Ennis' battle for the NSW #9 jersey against Robbie Farah. The former came out on top as the Bulldogs came home 22-20.
After their loss to the Dragons in Round 10, the Bulldogs regathered to put the Melbourne Storm away 26-10 on a road trip to Gosford on the NSW Central Coast, and everyone was crowing about their premiership credentials. A week later there were massive concerns however, as the 'Dogs capitulated to a spirited Knights side missing their Origin stars at EnergyAustralia Stadium - despite the fact the Bulldogs were only missing one player through Origin representation.
The Belmore boys then had their second bye to recuperate, and following back-to-back victories over Brisbane and Penrith look to be getting back into that form, and continue to sit atop the ladder with fellow premiership contenders St George Illawarra and Gold Coast.
Where it's gone right
The credit for the success though must surely rest with the administration of the club. Twelve months ago Malcolm Noad and Steve Folkes were in charge of the club and the team respectively, and the place was falling apart. Today with Todd Greenberg steering the ship and Kevin Moore directing troops, the place has a fresh new aura and the new faces - young and old - have had an untold effect on the long-term squad members like Andrew Ryan, Luke Patten and Hazem El Masri, all of whom are in vintage form despite heading toward the twilight of their careers.
The purchase of the Brisbane four - Stagg, Hannant, Eastwood and Ennis - has given the club an almost brand new forward pack and they've laid a platform that masterful halfback Brett Kimmorley can use, which in turn has allowed Ben Roberts to play his own natural game. The backline speaks for itself with Jamal Idris emerging as a real star, Josh Morris building on his brilliant season at the Dragons last year and Bryson Goodwin uncovered as one of the real finds of 2009.
Where to now?
The road home isn't an easy one and they've got some big challenges in the coming weeks to prove their worth - and no byes left up their sleeve either. Their draw: Cowboys (H), Sea Eagles (A), Warriors (A), Titans (H - Suncorp), Eels (H), Rabbitohs (A), Raiders (H), Cowboys (A), Roosters (H), Warriors (H), Tigers (A).