History of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs

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The history of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs stretches from the 1930s to the present day. Based in Belmore, a suburb of Sydney, the Bulldogs in 1935 were admitted to the New South Wales Rugby Football League (NSWRFL) competition, a predecessor of the current NRL competition.

The Bulldogs won their first premiership in just their fourth season (1938). At the time it made them the quickest club (barring the founding clubs) to win a premiership after admission to the competition, a record which was only recently beaten in 1999 by the Melbourne Storm. They won a second premiership in 1942 but then had to wait another 38 years before breaking through for a third title in 1980. During the 1980s, the Bulldogs were a dominant force in the competition appearing in five Grand Finals, winning four of them. In the 1990s they featured in the 1994, 1995 and 1998 Grand Finals, winning the title in 1995 over Manly. Their most recent success was in 2004 when they beat the Sydney Roosters 16–13, the tryscorers being Hazem El Masri and Matt Utai, and the Clive Churchill Medal winner Willie Mason.


The Canterbury-Bankstown region in Sydney's southwest had a thriving rugby league culture and local competition from 1922 onwards,[1] By 1930 the club had won the President's Cup competition[1] and afterwards applied repeatedly to join the Sydney senior competition, finally being successful on 24 September 1934. The main barrier had been the lack of a suitable ground, which the NSWRL had set as a condition of entry. The club covered as territory the municipalities of Bankstown and Canterbury, taking them from St George and Western Suburbs. It would share the suburbs of Earlwood and Hurlstone Park with Newtown.[2] It took part for the first time in 1935.

Debut season[edit]

Canterbury played its first premiership match against North Sydney on Anzac Day, 25 April 1935 at North Sydney Oval. In a match refereed by Tom McMahon, North Sydney won by a margin of 20 points to 5. Scorers for Canterbury-Bankstown were a try to Jack Hartwell Sr. and a penalty goal to Tom Carey. Hartwell was a prop forward, whilst Carey was a halfback or five-eighth who had been a Canterbury junior before playing with St George.

The first Canterbury team was: George Main, Vince Dwyer, Jack Morrison (c), Sid Elliott, Basil Crawford, Harry Brown, Tom Carey, Frank Sponberg, Alan Wellington, Jack McConnell, Jack Hartwell Sr., Bob Lindfield and Fred Chaplin and was coached by Tedda Courtney.

Canterbury's initial season was a remarkable one – for the wrong reasons. Playing without a home ground, the team suffered a number of massive losses, losing in successive weeks during May 6–91 to St George and 7–87 to Eastern Suburbs – the two heaviest defeats in the history of the competition.[3] The club managed to avoid the wooden spoon by twice defeating the winless University, but still conceded 140 tries in sixteen matches or an average of 8.75 tries per game, which remains the second-highest figure in NSWRFL/NRL history behind the 9.08 tries per game conceded by University in their debut 1920 season.[4]

Early success[edit]

After the disastrous 1935 season, Canterbury became determined to achieve success and especially to improve the backline – the chief cause of the 1935 failures.[5] They bought fullback Tom Kirk from Tumut, centre and captain Alan Brady from Western Suburbs, threequarter Joe Gartner from Newtown and ex-Bluebag prop Henry Porter from Goulburn. Along with champion coach Frank Burge, these buys improved the Cantabs from 1935's two wins to nine in 1936, netting a place in the finals.

In 1938, the Cantabs suffered only one loss, and a first title, defeating former nemesis Easts 19–6 in the final. Instrumental in the club's success was the front row combination of props Eddie Burns and Henry Porter and hooker Roy Kirkaldy. The club also won the reserve grade premiership the same year. Canterbury made the grand final again in 1940 but lost to Easts 24–14. After losing their semi-final in 1942, Canterbury finished on top of the ladder with Balmain in 1942, and secured the minor premiership after the NSWRL ruled that a play-off was necessary and they beat the Tigers 40–20. Canterbury were defeated by St George 35–10 in the semis, but as minor premiers had the right to challenge in a grand final which saw them defeat the Dragons 11–9 in wet conditions after the scores were even at half-time.

Decline as a Power[edit]

Remarkably – though largely due to the influence of World War II which deprived them of stars Porter and Newham, along with Bob Farrar and Bob Jackson[6] – Canterbury fell from premiers in 1942 to wooden spooners in each of the following two seasons. As players returned from service in the war, the club did regain its strength, finishing sixth in 1945, third in 1946 and on top of the table in 1947. They finished the competition three points clear of the Balmain Tigers with Newtown and Wests making up the four. They beat Newtown 25–15 in the first semi but lost to Balmain 19–25 in the final. As they had been minor premiers, they had the right of a rematch to force a Grand Final. However, Canterbury were unsuccessful, going down 9–13 after leading 7–4 at half time.

Their loss of the 1947 campaign was, more than the lapse of 1943 to 1945, the end of their first successful period. With the retirement of the famous front three of Eddie Burns, Roy Kirkaldy and Henry Porter (remarkably, none ever played for Australia owing to the war), Canterbury was unable to develop top-line players or attract established stars to its ranks, for the club's budget in this era was largely devoted to the establishment and development of their licensed club.[7] The club's financial position is the late 1950s was so precarious that only a loan from patron Stan Parry prevented the club from closing down.[8]

Ron Willey was their sole Australian international between 1948 and 1962, but never played a Test match, whilst long-serving hooker Fred Anderson was the only Canterbury player between 1954 and 1962 to reach even State representation. Even a spell by Australian coach Vic Hey in 1955 and 1956,[9] and the presence of other renowned mentors Col Geelan and Cec Cooper did not life the Berries up the ladder.

In 1948 they won only seven games, and after at one point looking like a surprise minor premiership in 1953 collapsed to never win more than six in a season from 1954 to 1959. Between 1952 and 1959 Canterbury were second last on five occasions (only Parramatta denying them the wooden spoon in four cases) but in 1960 under the coaching of club legend Burns they made the semis in an unparalleled four-way play-off. However their finals campaign only lasted one match as they lost to Easts 16–9 in the second semi-final. In the following seasons, they slipped back down the ladder quickly: after beating Easts on 6 July 1963 they did not win again until 25 July 1964. However, the emergence of skillful fullback Les Johns gave them hope, and despite finishing third last in 1966, the next year they made the Grand Final.

The Berries' most persistent weakness during this long drought lay in attack: Canterbury did not score so many as fifty tries in any season between 1951 and 1969,[10] and between 1954 and 1961 the highest season's try tally by any individual Canterbury player was just seven by five-eighth Ray Gartner in 1960.[11] The Berries' one potential prolific tryscorer, winger and local junior Barry Stenhouse, suffered a career-ruining leg muscle injury in 1954,[12] a season after scoring fourteen tries and sharing a Sydney Morning Herald "Player of the Year" award with Keith Holman.[13]

1967: the "intercept" Grand Final[edit]

In 1967 Canterbury were captain-coached by tough forward Kevin Ryan, who had joined them from St George and helped them break his former club's extraordinary run of eleven straight premierships by beating them 12–11 in the preliminary final after being down 9-0 early on. Prior to this, Canterbury had finished third in the regular season, three points behind South Sydney and four behind minor premiers St George. Their semi-final campaign started well, beating Easts 13–2, before victory over the Dragons. They lost to Souths in the premiership decider, in a match best remembered for Bob McCarthy's intercept try. The match had been a close one, with Souths leading 10–8 at half time, before Canterbury drew level for much of the second half. Souths gained the lead four minutes from full-time with an Eric Simms goal following a penalty for an incorrect scrum feed by Canterbury half Ross Kidd. For the losers, fullback Les Johns, second-rower Kevin Goldspink and centre Bob Hagan all stood out.

Reformation and rebuilding years[edit]

The following few years saw mixed fortunes for the club on the field, with a sudden decline in 1968 and 1969 followed by a semi-final berth in 1970 (though they immediately bowed out by losing 12–7 to St George) and a return to mid-table in 1971 and 1972. However, off the field the club was developing administrative strength that would restore it to the status of a "power" for the following thirty seasons.

Canterbury made the semis again in 1973, coming fifth in the first year the competition had a final five rather than four. Though they lost to Newtown, this heralded better times as the club made the semis every year for the rest of the decade, apart from 1977 when the team was heavily hit by injuries.

1974 proved more promising, as the club finished third on the ladder behind a runaway Roosters outfit coached by Jack Gibson, and Manly. They then defeated both clubs – Manly 20–14 and Easts 19–17 to be the first through to the Grand Final. However, missed opportunities in an initially tight game lead to a 19–4 defeat. This had been the first Premiership decider Canterbury had played in since 1967.

The Entertainers[edit]

Peter "Bullfrog" Moore was the top administrator at the Canterbury Bulldogs from 1970 to 1995. During this time the Bulldogs climbed to the very top of the game. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Bulldogs under coach Ted Glossop who came to the club in 1978 played an exciting and skilful brand of football that got them named The Entertainers. With brilliant halfback Steve Mortimer the linchpin, the Bulldogs as they were to be named in 1978 played a brand of football that was the envy of the Sydney Premiership.

The arrival of youngster Steve Mortimer and veteran Bob McCarthy in 1976 signalled a new beginning at the Bulldogs. McCarthy only had two seasons at Canterbury but his experience, knowledge and effect left a lasting impression with a new generation of forwards coming through the ranks, which included Steve Folkes, Graeme Hughes and Geoff Robinson.

Hints of future heroics came in 1976, Canterbury scraped into the final five, finishing fifth, then beat Easts and St George before losing to Manly 15–12 at the last hurdle before the Grand Final, a Bob Fulton field goal breaking hearts late in the match.

The Bulldogs started off with promise but missed the semis in 1977, losing four out of their last five regular season matches and finishing seventh. They then scraped into fifth position again for 1978, but were the first team out of the playoffs losing 22–15 to Parramatta.

They came fifth for a third time in four years in 1979, with the following four weeks of Finals in 1979 proving to be a turning point for the club and the beginning of their great success in the 1980s. Inspired by Mortimer and led by Test captain George Peponis, the Bulldogs disposed of Cronulla, Wests and Parramatta to make the Finals with some of Mortimer's tries leaving the public in awe of his genius. St George won the Grand Final 17–13 with the Bulldogs staging a great second half comeback after being down 17–2 at the break.

The 1980 season was a watershed year for the Bulldogs and they would win their first Premiership since 1942. Canterbury played consistent football all season to finish in a tie for top position with Eastern Suburbs having the superior for and against. The Bulldogs defeated Wests and Easts to make it through to the Grand Final having the week off. The Roosters were favoured to win the decider but the unheralded Bulldogs pack outmuscled the Roosters pack with Steve Mortimer doing the rest. Mortimer completely outplayed opposing half Kevin Hastings with the Bulldogs winning 18–4. Chris Anderson scored the Bulldogs first try but the Grand Final will always be remembered for Steve Gearin's performance where he landed six goals from six attempts and scored one of the all-time greatest tries in Grand Final history. Gearin chased through a bomb by fullback Greg Brentnall 40 m out and caught the ball in mid-air despite the best attempts from Hastings and David Michael to prevent the try. The Grand Final was also famous for the three Mortimer and three Hughes brothers playing in the clash.

As premiers, the Bulldogs did not buy significantly in the following couple of years and paid the penalty. Crippled with injuries they fell to tenth in 1981, and in 1982 stood ninth among 14 clubs in a newly expanded competition. Despite finishing third in 1983, the gap between Parramatta and Manly and the rest of the Premiership was massive. The style of football that worked for Canterbury in 1979-80 was now outdated with the club looking in a new direction. Warren Ryan would be appointed coach and the Bulldogs would quickly go from the Entertainers to the Enforcers in very quick time.


At the end of 1983 the board decided to go on a major rebuilding exercise. New coach Warren Ryan was brought on board, together with a collection of new players. Some of the major signings by Ryan and Chief Executive Peter Moore included 1983 Dally M Player of the Year Terry Lamb and Brian Battese from Wests, Queensland forward Darryl Brohman from Penrith, hooker Mark Bugden, Phil Gould and Peter Kelly from Newtown, and prop Peter Tunks from Souths. The Bulldogs went from the "Entertainers" to the "Enforcers". Young fullback Mick Potter's form led to him becoming 1984 Dally M Player of the Year. The Bulldogs finished the season as minor premiers four points in front of rivals St. George and Parramatta. They beat the Eels in the major semi-final 16–8 before marking their fiftieth season by beating them again for the 1984 Premiership. However, it did not come without controversy. Ryan would drop long serving veterans Garry Hughes and club captain Chris Anderson to reserve grade.

The Bulldogs success over the coming five seasons was achieved using a new aggressive, defensively oriented way of playing, later named by some as "Wozzaball". This brand of football worked with Canterbury nullifying the attacking skil of Parramatta to win the decider 6–4 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

The Bulldogs started the next year patchily but won their last seven matches to lie third on the ladder at the end of the regular season behind minor premiers St George and Balmain. They accounted for Balmain 14–8 before being beaten by the Dragons 17–6. Then they comprehensively crushed Parramatta 26–0 before making it back-to-back titles when they defeated St. George 7–6 in the Grand Final. Led by captain Steve Mortimer, the Bulldogs constantly bombed St. George, which forced a rule change in the catching of the ball in the in goal area.

Finishing third in the regular season behind Parramatta and a rejuvenated Souths, the Bulldogs could not follow up with a hat-trick of titles losing the 1986 Grand Final 4–2 to the Eels in a classic game of football. No tries were scored as both sides tackled as their lives depended on it.

Ryan's era at Canterbury ended after the 1987 season when he left the club on bad terms after the Bulldogs narrowly missed the semi-finals for the first time since 1982 – despite Ryan's success from 1984 until 1986. He is the only Canterbury coach to win two Premierships and when the Bulldogs named their greatest side in 2004, no coach was named, which many believe should have been Ryan. Others believed that Ryan was simply a professional coach rather than a "true" Bulldog and the choice of Moore as Manager of the greatest ever side was more appropriate.

Phil Gould succeeded Ryan as coach and in his first year was in charge as the Bulldogs won the 1988 Grand Final against the Ryan-coached Balmain Tigers 24–12, the first at the new Sydney Football Stadium. It was a great and consistent season following the disappointment in 1987. 1988 also marked the final season for Canterbury legend Steve Mortimer, who stood down as captain after Round 4. Mortimer suffered a broken wrist in the second last round but was fit enough to play-off the bench in the Grand Final victory. Mortimer retired with a club record 267 first grade games next to his name and at the time the most first grade games for one individual club. Mortimer captained the club to Premiership success in 1984 and 1985 and was a member of the 1980 and 1988 triumphs. He captained New South Wales in three State of Origin matches, winning all of them, giving the Blues their first triumph in 1985.

Chris Anderson Era[edit]

The "Wozzaball" era came to an end in 1989 when the Bulldogs struggled and Gould left the club to join Penrith Panthers. Chris Anderson returned as coach for the 1990 season and cleaned out the Ryan era, building the club around another club great in Terry Lamb.

Anderson had left the Bulldogs in 1984 and played the remaining years of his career with Halifax RLFC where he was captain-coach. Anderson intended to return to Canterbury but his commitments with Halifax in 1987-88 meant he could not take on the coaching position until 1989. Phil Gould's success in 1988 saw Anderson take on the Under 21s position in 1989 and he was promoted to first grade, which saw Gould leave on bad terms and join the Penrith Panthers.

One of Anderson's first jobs as first grade coach was appoint Terry Lamb as captain ahead of Paul Langmack. This caused some controversy at the time. Anderson was in the first stages of cleaning out the "Wozzaball" era and built his team around Lamb. Warren Ryan, now coaching Western Suburbs, would snare four former Canterbury players Langmack, Andrew Farrar, David Gillespie and Joe Thomas whilst Paul Dunn followed Gould to Penrith Panthers and Jason Alchin joined St. George Dragons.

The Bulldogs enjoyed encouraging results in 1991 led by Lamb with support from 1991 Rothmans Medal winner Ewan McGrady and "the Welsh Wizard" Jonathan Davies with youngsters such as Darren Smith, Jarrod McCracken, Dean Pay and Simon Gillies coming through the ranks. The Bulldogs were inconsistent in 1992 and Peter Bullfrog Moore went on a recruitment drive snaring Martin Bella, Jim Dymock, Jim Serdaris and Gary Connolly. Canterbury won the Minor Premiership with Lamb leading the way but they fell short in the Finals losing to St. George Dragons and Brisbane Broncos.

Goal kicking wizard Daryl Halligan joined the Bulldogs in 1994 and he booted a then club record of 270 points including the match-winning drop goal in the 1994 Major Semi-Final against Canberra Raiders at the Sydney Football Stadium. Darren Britt and Jason Smith emerged as leading players. Canberra were far too good on Grand Final day winning 36–12 with Mal Meninga enjoying a great exit from the game.

Canterbury were confident heading into the 1995 season with a new home at Parramatta Stadium but the uproar of the Super League War caused Jim Dymock, Dean Pay, Jason Smith, and Jarrod McCracken to announce mid-season they were to leave the club. Their form before Super League was patchy and it was to get worse with demoralizing losses against Manly 26–0, 19th place Parramatta, Newcastle 42-0 and Auckland 29-8 putting the season in doubt. Two major turning points was the switch of the final round match against North Queensland Cowboys to Belmore Sports Ground and Chris Anderson dropping Kiwi International Jarrod McCracken to reserve grade. Anderson would later omit McCracken from the overall squad. The Bulldogs walloped the Cowboys in a club record 66–4 victory and laid the platform for the Finals ahead.

The Bulldogs defeated the St. George Dragons 12–8, the Brisbane Broncos 24–10, and the 1994 Premiers Canberra Raiders 25–6. The Grand Final saw them up against the ARL's pin-up club Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles in an ultimate Super League-ARL match. The Bulldogs were never headed winning 17–4 with Lamb leading the way in an inspirational (and controversial) performance. One of the tryscorers that day for Canterbury was future club captain, Steve Price, who was starting in only his 3rd first grade match.

The Anderson-Lamb coach-captain era at the Bulldogs lasted six seasons and they worked on a very successful rebuilding program. Lamb announced his retirement after the Grand Final but would play on for another year in 1996 to help the sudden loss of players due to the ARL departures. Lamb however decided not to stand for the leadership leaving it for Simon Gillies. When Gillies was injured, Lamb again opted not to be captain with Darren Britt taking control for the final nine matches. Lamb's six seasons as Canterbury captain saw the club rebuild and emerge back again as a force following the great 1980s era and Lamb in 2004 would be named captain in Canterbury's 'Greatest Ever Team'.

Another era ended following the 1995 season with the retirement of Chief Executive Peter Moore after 26 years in power. Moore came into power in 1969 with the backing of captain-coach Kevin Ryan and brought in a complete reformation of the Bulldogs club, which saw it emerge as a competitive force in the 1970s and a rugby league powerhouse in the 1980s. Moore took on a position as Super League recruitment officer and he would retain his position on the Canterbury Leagues Club board until 1998. He was first diagnosed with cancer in 1998 and beat the first round but it returned in 2000 and lost his battle for life on 5 July. Moore's record at Canterbury was five Premierships and nine Grand Finals in 26 seasons.

Super League War[edit]

When the Canterbury administration saw the Super League war on the horizon they re-branded the club the "Sydney Bulldogs". The Bulldogs were one of the clubs most damaged by the big split in Australian rugby league and lost five key players for the 1996 season with Dean Pay, Jason Smith, Jim Dymock and Jarrod McCracken joining arch-rivals Parramatta Eels and Brett Dallas linking with North Sydney Bears. The Bulldogs were a shadow of their three previous seasons in 1996 and scrambled to finish 10th in the ARL Premiership.

The 1997 season saw Canterbury play in the Super League competition and was the first without club legend Terry Lamb who finally hung up the boots after 349 first grade matches. The Bulldogs finished in fifth position in the ten-team competition. Chris Anderson quit the club at the end of the 1997 after a lifetime of service as a player and coach. Anderson joined the newly formed Melbourne Storm with reserve grade coach Steve Folkes taking over the head coaching position.

Super League and the ARL compromised at the end of 1997 and formed the National Rugby League, which saw Canterbury playing arch-rivals Parramatta Eels, St. George Dragons and Western Suburbs Magpies once again.

The Bulldogs struggled in 1998 as the effects from the Super League War and the retirement of Terry Lamb were still being felt. Simon Gillies was replaced mid-season as captain by Darren Britt and that sparked a Bulldogs revival. Canterbury won their last four matches to scrape into ninth position as the National Rugby League that season used a "Top 10" Finals format.

Just prior to the Finals, it was revealed that former Chief Executive Peter Moore was diagnosed with cancer. The Bulldogs lifted to new levels as an inspiration to 'Bullfrog' and in the first two weeks of the Finals defeated St. George Dragons 20-12 (ultimately their last match as a stand-alone club) and North Sydney Bears 23–12, both victories on away soil. The followed week without Craig Polla-Mounter the Bulldogs came from 16-0 down to defeat the Andrew Johns Newcastle Knights 28–16 with the scores locked at 16-all at full-time.

The most famous semi-final came the next week against arch-rivals Parramatta Eels with Pay, Dymock, Smith and McCracken in their line up. The Eels led 18–2 with 11 minutes remaining before Craig Polla-Mounter inspired a comeback. Canterbury scored three tries in the period of seven minutes to bring it back to 18–16 with Daryl Halligan landing a sideline goal to level up the scores before Polla-Mounter nearly snatched a win in regular time with a heart-stopping field goal just falling under the cross-bar. The Bulldogs got a 32–20 victory.

Brisbane Broncos won the Grand Final 38-12 (after leading 12–10 at half time). The Super League War was now forgotten in a short period of time as they forged into a new era under the guidance of coach Steve Folkes.

The 1998 season also marked the farewell to Belmore Sports Ground as the Bulldogs home ground. The decision to leave Belmore upset many of the Bulldogs' loyal supporters as the ground had so much history to it. Belmore was Canterbury's home for 547 matches between 1936–98 and they had a great record on home soil. Belmore was also the home ground for the Parramatta Eels between 1982 and 1985 as their new stadium was being built and St. George Dragons played at Belmore in 1988. Only the Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney Sports Ground and North Sydney Oval have hosted more Premiership games than Belmore Sports Ground. Overall, Belmore hosted 602 Premiership games.

Despite opposition from many supporters, Canterbury moved to Stadium Australia for the 1999 season and finished the Premiership rounds in fifth position with confidence gained from the Finals success in 1998 and signing new recruits Darren Smith, Bradley Clyde and Ricky Stuart. The Bulldogs were defeated in the second week of the Finals with Melbourne Storm's Matt Geyer swooping on a Stuart kick to seal victory in the dying minutes of the game.

In 1998 the Bulldogs won the President's Cup competition.

The Salary Cap[edit]

The Bulldogs fallout from a disappointing 2000 season saw a "new breed" of players coming through for 2001. The Bulldogs' outfit aged badly in 2000 with many players past their best and a massive cleanout happened with several new players on the way including Nigel Vagana, Luke Patten, Brett Howland and Darrell Trindall. The Bulldogs finished the Minor Premiership in second position but crashed out of the Finals. The Dally M Rookie of the Year that season was Braith Anasta. Mark O'Meley was signed up for the 2002 season as the club said farewell to captain Darren Britt and his deputy Craig Polla-Mounter. With both of those gone, Steve Folkes opted for Steve Price as captain ahead of the more experienced Darren Smith.

Trouble returned in a big way in 2002, with the Club being found guilty of salary cap breaches described by NRL Chief Executive David Gallop as "exceptional in both its size and its deliberate and ongoing nature". The club received a $500,000 fine, and was stripped of all 37 competition points; the club, who were poised to take the Minor Premiership and had won 17 consecutive matches, won the wooden spoon as a result.

Club legend Steve Mortimer was brought in to save the club, and the Bulldogs then finished one game short of the Grand Final in 2003.

Gang rape allegation[edit]

At the start to the 2004 season a major off-field scandal allegedly involving Bulldogs players in Coffs Harbour. A number of unidentified players were accused of gang raping a 20-year-old woman at a resort in Coffs Harbour, New South Wales.[14] The woman filed a complaint with Coffs Harbour police alleging that she had been vaginally, orally and anally raped by multiple members of the Bulldogs team in the pool area of the Pacific Bay Resort, where the team had been staying, in the early hours of Sunday 22 February.[15] On 27 April, New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery informed detectives that he did not believe there was sufficient evidence to prosecute any Bulldogs players. The police accordingly decided not to lay charges.[16]

Following the incident Football Manager Garry Hughes was sacked and Steve Mortimer stepped aside as Chief Executive. Former Test forward Bradley Clyde was named the new Football Manager and News Limited Executive Malcolm Noad taking over from Mortimer. The controversy was considered a major public relations nightmare for the club with significant media coverage. The NRL announced that the Bulldogs would be fined $150,000, and an additional $350,000 if there were any other allegations of off-field misbehaviour before the end of the 2004 season. NRL chief executive officer David Gallop said that the fine had been imposed because during the months of media scrutiny the club had failed to behave "in a way which protected the game's image".[17] [18] In 2006, Bulldogs chief executive Malcolm Noad said that the allegations had led to the loss of millions of dollars of sponsorship money, and to continuing negative beliefs in the community about Bulldogs players and supporters. He said that even two years after the events, Bulldogs fans were sometimes taunted as 'rapists' at matches.[19]

2004 Premiers[edit]

The Bulldogs endured a nightmare start to the season, but a string of good results culminated in defeating the Sydney Roosters 16–13 in the Grand Final. The Bulldogs season started slowly but they worked their way into being genuine Premiership contenders, which included big wins against the Sydney Roosters, Penrith Panthers and Brisbane Broncos to finish the regular season on equal standing with eventual runners-up the Roosters, however due to points differential the Bulldogs were deemed to have finished second.

Finals newcomers North Queensland Cowboys upset the Bulldogs 30–22 in the first week of the Finals. The Bulldogs powered past the Melbourne Storm 43–18 in the second week of the Finals. Three tries and five goals from Hazem El Masri saw the Bulldogs topple 2003 Premiers Penrith Panthers 30–14 in the Preliminary Final.

The Grand Final against the Sydney Roosters was always going to be a tense battle with neither club having much affection for the other. The Bulldogs came from 13-6 down at halftime to triumph 16–13. This victory saw desperate Bulldogs defence absorb much punishment and keep the Roosters scoreless for the entire second half. It was a sweet result for the Bulldogs after enduring a number of nightmare seasons on and off the field. It showed the great character in the club and the values that can't be bought or manufactured. To defeat the Roosters made it even sweeter considering the rivalry and backgrounds of both clubs. Matt Utai scored two tries with Hazem El Masri also scoring. Willie Mason was named Clive Churchill Medal Winner. Stand-in captain Andrew Ryan, who ultimately make the winning tackle, stopping Roosters forward Michael Crocker from scoring the final seconds of the match.

Warriors-bound club captain Steve Price missed the game due to injury sustained the week before in the semi-final victory against Penrith Panthers. Price's value and respect in the team was noticeable on Grand Final night when Ryan called up Price to hold the trophy and say a few words, whilst Johnathan Thurston gave Price his Grand Final ring.

Following their Grand Final victory, the bulldogs traveled to England to play in the 2005 World Club Challenge against Super League premiers, the Leeds Rhinos. The match was played on 4 February 2005 at Elland Road in front of 37,208 with the home team coming out winners in the end of a high-scoring match, with a final scoreline of 39–32.


The Bulldogs were unable to mount a serious defence of the title in 2005 as injuries and contract negotiations saw the year start and finish on a sour note for the club. Due to the extent of injuries suffered, the team at times was unable to be at full-strength. This took its toll in the final six weeks of the season, the club suffering heavy losses and missing the finals series.

In 2006, little was expected from the club after a lacklustre 2005 season, but despite some doubt over the strength of their side, the Bulldogs' impressive forward pack helped them to a better than expected result for the year, finishing just a game short of the Grand Final, in which they lost to eventual premiers the Brisbane Broncos.

The 2008 season was a tumultuous one for the Bulldogs. They finished at the bottom of the ladder, but the main news of the season was the controversial departure of star player Sonny Bill Williams.

A huge player recruitment drive saw the Bulldogs reverse their fortunes in the 2009 NRL season. Canterbury finished in second place during the 2009 and made it all the way to the preliminary final before they were defeated by arch rivals the Parramatta Eels in front of a record non-grand final crowd of 74,549. Canterbury had gone into the game as favourites despite Parramatta's dream run at the back end of the season.[20]

Alan Thompson, a long-time supporter of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, was appointed general manager of the club's football operations on 15 April 2010.[21]

In 2012, Canterbury-Bankstown finished first on the competition ladder to take out their first minor premiership since 1994. They made it to the Grand Final, losing to the Melbourne Storm 14–4.[22]

In May 2013, former Netball New Zealand chief executive Raelene Castle was appointed CEO, the first female in the NRL's history.[23] They finished the regular season sixth on the ladder and bowed out in the semi final.

In 2014, Canterbury-Bankstown made history by winning three consecutive games by one point, from Round 5 to Round 7. They finished runners up to the South Sydney in the grand final.[24]

On 10 August 2017, Canterbury-Bankstown announced Rugby League World Cup CEO Andrew Hill as the replacement for outgoing boss Raelene Castle. On the appointment, chairman Ray Dib noted that "Andrew was appointed from a very strong list of candidates and has exceptional experience in the game of rugby league." In September 2017, Canterbury announced that former premiership winning player Dean Pay would be the new coach at the club starting in 2018, Pay's stint as coach finished during the 2020 season.[25]

The 2018 season started off badly for Canterbury with the club only winning 3 of its first 10 matches. In May 2018, the new Canterbury board admitted that they would not be able to make any major signings until the end of the 2021 season due to the salary cap drama engulfing the club.

The issue with the salary cap problems involved the previous administration and former coach Des Hasler who signed numerous players on back ended deals. In the wake of the scandal, the club was forced to offload players to free up room in the cap.

This resulted in Moses Mbye departing for the Wests Tigers and star recruit Aaron Woods being sold to Cronulla after only signing with Canterbury months prior. On 16 June 2018, Canterbury suffered a humiliating 32–10 loss to the Gold Coast Titans at Belmore, in the press conference coach Dean Pay said "Physically, we just weren’t good enough. The way they turned up, the way they trained during the week wasn’t good enough, I feel sorry for the fans".[26][27]

On 20 July 2018, Canterbury played against arch rivals Parramatta in what the media had dubbed as the "Spoon Bowl" with both sides sitting at the bottom of the ladder. There were fears before the game that the match would attract the lowest NRL crowd in over 20 years. Parramatta went on to win the match 14–8.[28]

After the defeat by Parramatta, Canterbury were facing the prospect of finishing with the wooden spoon for the first time since 2008 but over the coming four weeks the club managed to pull off upset wins against the Wests Tigers, the Brisbane Broncos and St George to finish the season in 12th place.[29][30]

On 3 September 2018, The Canterbury club found themselves in trouble with The NRL after it was revealed that players who had been celebrating mad Monday were behaving badly. It was alleged that Canterbury players had been photographed stripping naked and one player vomiting in the street. NRL CEO Todd Greenberg issued a statement saying "We had a very detailed discussion with all 16 clubs and the eight clubs that weren’t playing, There’s no doubt we’ll take some action, I’ve asked the club today for a report. I expect that report to be on our desk within 24 hours".[31][32][33] On 6 September 2018, The NRL handed Canterbury a $250,000 fine over the mad Monday incident with players Asipeli Fine and Adam Elliott both receiving a $25,000 fine (including $10,000 suspended) by the club. Elliott and Fine were also issued with court attendance notices for wilful and obscene exposure. Two other Canterbury players Marcelo Montoya and Zac Woolford also received fines of $10,000 each($5000 suspended).[34]

The lower grades of Canterbury performed better in 2018 with the club winning the Intrust Super Premiership defeating Newtown 18–12 in the final and also winning the NRL State Championship defeating Redcliffe 42–18.[35][36]

Canterbury started off the 2019 NRL season losing their two first games in convincing fashion against the New Zealand Warriors and rivals Parramatta. Due to the bad start to the season, there were rumours that coach Dean Pay would be relieved of his duties but he was then granted a 12-month contract extension to remain as Canterbury coach until the end of 2020.

By the midway part of the 2019 NRL season, Canterbury-Bankstown found themselves sitting last on the table and in real danger of finishing with the wooden spoon. However, for the third straight season, Canterbury achieved four upset victories in a row over Penrith, the Wests Tigers, South Sydney and Parramatta who were all competing for a place in the finals series and were higher on the table. Pay was credited with the late season revival as the side focused heavily on defence.[37][38]

2020−present: Start of a new decade[edit]

On 10 March 2020, Canterbury were rocked by another off-field scandal just two days before the start of the 2020 NRL season after it was alleged two Canterbury players Jayden Okunbor and Corey Harawira-Naera met two school girls during a school visit on a pre-season trip to Port Macquarie earlier in March, whilst a sexual encounter was alleged to occur, the school girls were of the age of consent and there was no criminal investigation pending. Both players were asked to “show cause” why the NRL should not cancel or suspend their registrations as players.[39]

On 11 March 2020, it was revealed that Okunbor had used Instagram to contact one of the school girls. In a leaked message obtained through Fox Sports, Okunbor said to the school girl "Yeah had to have a good look, what are we doing tonight?, Okay, okay, we’re you at the school today?". It was also revealed one of the two players sanctioned had sexual intercourse with a teacher from another school during the same pre-season trip.[40]

On the same day, it was revealed that because of the two players actions, new major sponsor Rashays had canceled their $2 million sponsorship with the club. Rashays had signed on to become Canterbury's front of shirt sponsor. Rashays owner Rami Ykmour released a statement saying "It’s a shame two players could wreck it for everyone, It’s disgusting. It's repulsive, to be honest. That’s something else. If they sack them, I would stand by the club and the NRL’s decision".[41]

Sponsorship history[edit]

Year Jersey Manufacturer Major Sponsor Sleeve Sponsor Shorts Sponsor
1980-81 Classic Electronic Sales & Rentals
1982 Classic Joyce Mayne Discounts
1983 Classic General Corporation Japan (Aust.) (Fujitsu General (Aust.) )
1984-90 Classic HFC Financial Services
1991 Classic HFC Financial Services Mobil
1992 Classic HFC Financial Services
1993-96 Classic Hyundai Cenovis
1997 Nike Canterbury League Club Cenovis
1998-99 Nike Stardome Cenovis
2000 Nike realestate.com.au Cenovis
2001-02 Nike National Telecoms Group ADCO Constructions
2003 Nike Mitsubishi Electric ADCO Constructions
2004-05 Nike Mitsubishi Electric Auto Group Motor Auctions Yes Home Loans
2006 Nike Mitsubishi Electric Q.L.D. Group Bill Express
2007 Nike Mitsubishi Electric Bankstown Sports Club Bill Express
2008 Nike Mitsubishi Electric Bankstown Sports Club Bill Express

'Yes Home Loans' shifted their sponsorship to 'back of jersey' in 2006 and onward in a new move allowed by NRL regulations.


  1. ^ a b Lester, Gary; From Berries to Bulldogs: Fifty Years of the Cantberury-Bankstown R.L.F.C.; pp. 11-13 ISBN 9780949853066
  2. ^ "New First Grade League Club: Canterbury-Bankstown Elevated in Sydney". Sydney Morning Herald. 27 September 1934. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
  3. ^ Rugby League Tables: Biggest Wins Archived 17 July 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Rugby League Tables: Season Records
  5. ^ Lester; From Berries to Bulldogs; p. 22
  6. ^ Lester; From Berries to Bulldogs; p. 42
  7. ^ Lester; From Berries to Bulldogs; p. 49
  8. ^ Lester; From Berries to Bulldogs; p. 60
  9. ^ Vic Hey: Coaching Summary
  10. ^ AFL Tables; Canterbury Season Summary
  11. ^ Rugby League Project; Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs seasons
  12. ^ 'Special Treatment for Stenhouse'; Sydney Morning Herald, 18 June 1954, p. 8
  13. ^ Lester; From Berries to Bulldogs; p. 53
  14. ^ abc.net.au (24 February 2004). "Bulldogs' accuser gives statement to police". ABC News. Australia: ABC. Archived from the original on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 6 March 2011.
  15. ^ Magnay, Jacquelin (29 February 2004). "Rugby rocked by fresh rape claims". The Age. Retrieved 8 July 2008.
  16. ^ "No Bulldogs charged over rape allegations". AAP. 27 April 2004. Retrieved 8 July 2008.
  17. ^ Foschia, Liz (28 April 2004). "NRL fines Bulldogs for Coffs Harbour incident". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 8 July 2008.
  18. ^ PM - NRL fines Bulldogs for Coffs Harbour incident
  19. ^ Magnay, Jacquelin (6 May 2006). "Bulldogs 'rape' was nonsense: detective". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  20. ^ "Eels thunder into grand final". www.abc.net.au.
  21. ^ AFP (15 April 2010). "Swimming coach switches to rugby league". Times Live. AVUSA, Inc. Retrieved 15 April 2010.
  22. ^ "Melbourne Storm beat Canterbury Bulldogs in 2012 NRL grand final". News.com.au.
  23. ^ "Castle appointed as Bulldogs CEO". 3 News NZ. 29 May 2013.[permanent dead link]
  24. ^ "South Sydney Rabbitohs win 2014 NRL grand final, defeating Canterbury Bulldogs 30-6". Daily Telegraph.
  25. ^ "Dean Pay the new Bulldogs coach, replacing Des Hasler". 28 September 2017. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  26. ^ "'I feel sorry for fans': Dogs coach slams players for horrorshow". Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  27. ^ "Canterbury Bulldogs rubbish rebuild talk despite Aaron Woods, Moses Mbye exits". 27 June 2018. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  28. ^ Nicolussi, Christian (16 July 2018). "Fears 'Spoon Bowl' will attract lowest crowd for 20 years". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  29. ^ "Bulldogs hand Broncos upset NRL loss". 2 August 2018. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  30. ^ Press, Australian Associated (26 August 2018). "Cronulla keep NRL top four hopes alive as Bulldogs thrash Dragons". the Guardian. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  31. ^ Webster, Andrew (4 September 2018). "The most maddening aspect of the Bulldogs' Mad Monday madness". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  32. ^ Press, Australian Associated (4 September 2018). "'A bad look': Bulldogs launch investigation into Mad Monday celebrations". the Guardian. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  33. ^ "Bulldogs Mad Monday, NRL 2018 news: Todd Greenberg responds - Fox Sports". www.foxsports.com.au. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  34. ^ "NSW Police charge Dogs for 'obscene exposure'". wwos.nine.com.au. Retrieved 7 September 2018.
  35. ^ https://www.nswrl.com.au/news/2018/09/23/woolford-stars-as-bulldogs-claim-isp-premiership/
  36. ^ https://www.nrl.com/news/2018/09/30/bulldogs-defeat-redcliffe-dolphins-to-win-intrust-super-championship/
  37. ^ "Spoons of wood, high hopes and chances lost... the final round storylines". Brisbane Times.
  38. ^ "The Dean Pay way: 'Unashamedly' old school". NRL.
  39. ^ "Two Canterbury stars stood down on eve of nrl season". www.foxsports.com.au.
  40. ^ "Were you at school today messages between axed Canterbury star and teen revealed". www.foxsports.com.au.
  41. ^ "'Disgusting, repulsive': Why Rashays walked from $2 million Bulldogs deal". www.smh.com.au.


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External links[edit]