Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Canterbury Bulldogs interim chief executive Steve Mortimer is not dwelling on the club's fall from grace last year.
He even went as far as to say in Wellington yesterday that the A$500,000 fine and loss of 37 National Rugby League points last year was "a blessing".
Bearing in mind it cost them the minor premiership, possible grand final victory, and ate into the credibility of league it was a huge call.
However, Mortimer, a brilliant halfback for the club till his retirement after the grand final victory in 1988, is unflinching in his view.
"Some mistakes were made. It was a dark period for the club. We restructured the club and we have a strong team working together," Mortimer said. "These things (breaching the salary cap by A$1.5 million) happen in life."
Mortimer was in Wellington to firm arrangements for the Bulldogs' round eight NRL game against the New Zealand Warriors at the Westpac Stadium on the weekend of May 2-4.
Because of Mortimer's huge standing in the club he was one of the first members turned to in their darkest hour in August last year.
Initially he wanted nothing to do with it. However, after discussing it with his family, and arranging for his own business to be looked after in his absence he agreed to a contract till the end of the year.
That the club has recovered so quickly says a lot for the efforts of the straight-talking Mortimer, 46, and a former teammate, first grade coach Steve Folkes. They signed almost all of their star-studded squad, some on "salary deferment" to avoid cuts, and they secured a new sponsor in Mitsubishi Electric Australia.
Before the season started they were rated the most likely champions by several experts, among them Mortimer's former fierce rival for the Kangaroo jersey, Peter Sterling.
After three rounds the Bulldogs have two wins, their loss being to the Warriors.
The Warriors have lost just one of their last eight games against the Bulldogs. The match on the weekend starting May 4 will be their third successive "home" game against the Warriors in Wellington.
They have a fourth game set for next year but Mortimer said a longer-term contract at the stadium would depend on the crowd in May. Mortimer was aiming for 28,000, almost 4000 more than last year.
He was uneasy talking about encouraging New Zealand youngsters to join the Bulldogs, saying the Warriors should have first call. However, there is no doubt the Bulldogs would love to develop a stronger feeder relationship with the Wellington league.
The Warriors are sensitive to any NRL club picking up Kiwi youngsters. They had a spat with the Bulldogs last month when a Mt Albert club poster invited promising Auckland schoolboys to join the Bulldogs.
Tickets for the May game go on sale today. Whether it is a Friday, Saturday or Sunday game has yet to be decided by the NRL