Josh Jackson: Leader of the pack
He’s been a leader by action for some time, but 2018 is set to be the year Bulldog’s skipper Josh Jackson takes leadership of the Belmore club.
Plenty of doubt has been cast around Belmore over the off-season. With the change in coach from Des Hasler to Dean Pay and significant unrest and turnover in key management positions, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs have generated plenty of talking points since they finished the 2017 season with a shock win over the St George Illawarra Dragons.
The loss of England representative prop forward James Graham also created a dearth of leadership on the field for a club which struggled and stuttered to an 11th placed finish, missing the finals for the first time since 2011, the year before Hasler was brought in to drive a change in culture and performance.
With Graham headed to Kogarah to link up with the Dragons and Aiden Tolman, who deputized for Graham on four occasions as captain during last season expected to play fewer minutes from the bench, first-year head coach Dean Pay turned to one his most solid contributors to lead his side.
Emotional scenes for the new skipper
It was a special moment for the 27-year-old who has nine New South Wales caps alongside his 130+ NRL appearances and it could prove a huge step in the right direction for a side in desperate need of a change in fortunes.
One bad season does not a club in crisis create but after a long period of sustained success, club management made the decision to blow it all up and start again in a bid to freshen things up and move away from the highly structured approach of Hasler, an approach which had started to become stale and beatable.
When the announcement was made in late January, Jackson told Fox Sports of the emotions drawn out of him after being named as the latest captain of a club with a long, proud history.
“Andrew Ryan was one of my idols growing up — he was a great captain of the club,” he said.
“Some of the people who have captained previously … to be named alongside guys like that, it’s extremely emotional and a great privilege.”
It undoubtedly is the aim of Jackson to replicate the feats of legendary Bulldogs skippers like Andrew Ryan or Steve Mortimer, but it is fair to suggest the club, or at the very least the playing roster is not yet in a position to challenge the league leaders.
Dogs could struggle in 2018
Question marks over fullback Moses Mbye, new halves pairing Matt Frawley and Kieran Foran as well as concerns that high-profile prop forward Aaron Woods has been paid overs to switch from the Wests Tigers will do little to convince the Bulldogs faithful that the club is headed in the right direction.
If Jackson can bring together Woods and fellow representative prop David Klemmer, the Bulldogs could boast one of the toughest, meanest packs in the league, but, as many will know that’s a big ‘if.’
With Josh Reynolds and Sam Kasiano joining Graham and Hasler out the door over the off-season, 2018 stands as a chance to reboot the Bulldogs and it will be imperative that Jackson and his colleagues in the engine room deliver a big platform week in, week out to allow an average halves pairing to take advantage.
Captaincy and the responsibility of leading a pack that will be the backbone of his side will weigh heavily on Josh Jackson’s shoulders but one look at the Bulldogs’ playing group confirms he’s the right man for the job.
Will Josh Jackson lead the Bulldogs to a good 2018 campaign? Let us know in the comments below.