Season Preview: Canterbury Bulldogs

Home Ground: ANZ Stadium, Homebush (Sydney)
Coach: Des Hasler
2015 finish: 5th
2015 top point scorer: Trent Hodkinson, 99
2015 top try scorer: Curtis Rona, 23
2015 Players of the Year: Brett Morris & Aiden Tolman
Gains: Brad Abbey (Warriors), Craig Garvey (Dragons), Will Hopoate (Eels)
Losses: Damian Cook (Rabbitohs), Trent Hodkinson (Knights), Tim Lafai (Dragons), Frank Pritchard (Hull FC), Corey Thompson (Widnes Vikings)
Betting: 12-1

When the New Zealand Warriors signed Kiwis Test fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck from the Roosters, Bulldogs coach Des Hasler quickly swooped on the Auckland club’s Under-20s custodian, Brad Abbey.

At the time, he was being groomed as Sam Tomkins’ successor

Even though Abbey is yet to make his senior debut, keen judges reckon he is one of the greatest young New Zealand talents playing the game.

Indeed the Waikato Chiefs and Auckland Blues rugby union sides were trying desperately to persuade him to switch codes.

His Rugby League coach, the legendary Stacey Jones, says the only thing that could hold him back initially is his light weight, even though be bulked up from 80kg to 90kg last season.

Aiden Tolman impressed last year.
Aiden Tolman impressed last year.

The only other important Canterbury recruit is NSW Origin three-quarter Will Hopoate. But his signing meant the Bulldogs had to let go Samoan international Tim Lafai to remain under the salary cap. They have also lost NSW Origin scrum half Trent Hodkinson to Newcastle. And they will sorely miss the veteran Kiwi international Frank Pritchard, now with Super League.

Much of Canterbury’s hopes rest on the shoulders of England Test prop and club captain James Graham. His Man of the Match effort in the All Stars game showed the Englishman is set for a great season.

Graham Canterbury

Stand by for another good year from prop Aiden Tolman who averaged 38 tackles and more than 150 metres per match in barnstorming runs in 2015.