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HomeSportsNRL 2023: Canterbury Bulldogs season preview

NRL 2023: Canterbury Bulldogs season preview

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Canterbury are one of the most talked-about clubs heading into this season, with an aura of excitement surrounding the new-look outfit. 

Cameron Ciraldo will take over as head coach in a move that has brought plenty of optimism to Belmore, while the signings of grand finalists Viliame Kikau and Reed Mahoney 

Matt Burton will again steer the ship in the halves, while some talented young guns are ready to burst onto the scene out wide including Paul Alamoti, who is tipped for big things in the NRL.

The Sporting News previews the Bulldogs season below – including their best 17, the key to their success and predicted finish for 2023.



1 Hayze Perham
2 Jacob Kiraz
3 Jake Averillo
4 Paul Alamoti
5 Josh Addo-Carr
6 Matt Burton
7 Kyle Flanagan
8 Luke Thompson
9 Reed Mahoney
10 Max King
11 Raymond Faitala-Mariner
12 Viliame Kikau
13 Ryan Sutton
14 Fa’amanu Brown
15 Tevita Pangai Junior
16 Andrew Davey
17 Franklin Pele



Reed Mahoney, Viliame Kikau, Ryan Sutton, Fa’amanu Brown, Hayze Perham, Andrew Davey, Franklin Pele, Josh Reynolds


Jeremy Marshall-King, Matt Dufty, Paul Vaughan, Corey Allan, Aaron Schoupp, Jack Hetherington, Joe Stimson, Josh Jackson, Ava Seumanufagai


Canterbury have put together a pretty solid squad heading into the new season, with some strong additions to their forward pack which should help the likes of Matt Burton and Jake Averillo. 

Viliame Kikau and Ryan Sutton will bring plenty of experience to the middle of the field, while the signings of Reed Mahoney and Fa’amanu Brown will make a huge difference to their attack out of the hooker role. Their top 17 as listed above is stacked with forwards who can lay a platform and make a big difference. 

Their squad depth in the forwards is also very strong, with plenty of NRL-standard players across the middle-forward and edge-forward positions including Corey Waddell, Jackson Topine and Chris Patolo.  

The issue for the Bulldogs stems from their backline. Due to an ACL injury for Bailey Biondi-Odo, Kyle Flanagan is the only recognised and fully-fit halfback in their top 30 roster and it’s no secret of his struggles in the top grade. Jake Averillo spent a lot of last year at fullback, but looks set for a move to the centres to accomodate for the rather untested Hayze Perham in the No.1 jumper. 

Their outside backs are also a little bit skinny, with a lot of pressure on young guns Paul Alamoti and Jacob Kiraz to perform in the top grade. Braidon Burns is an experienced back-up option who can play centre or wing quite comfortably, but it’s going to be up to the rookies and young guns otherwise. 


WEAKNESSES: Halves/outside backs

RATING: 6/10

The forward pack makes up for the lack of quality or depth in the halves, while their outside backs are going to be heavily reliant on the young guns stepping up and Josh Addo-Carr leading them. 


The key player for Canterbury heading into the 2023 season is undoubtedly Matt Burton.

After a solid campaign despite the side’s struggles last year, Burton is going to be playing behind a stronger forward pack and will be aided by the addition of Reed Mahoney at hooker, who is a representative-calibre player and is coming from a successful Parramatta system. 

The 22-year-old produced 14 try assists in his first season at the Bulldogs, as well as forcing 18 dropouts and scoring six tries. His influence on the side’s attack is astronomical given the lack of quality at fullback and halfback, and his relationship with new head coach Cameron Ciraldo from their days at Penrith will only improve his on-field performances. 

Burton has inked a new long-term extension to remain at Belmore and will be a focal point of the side for year’s to come, with his towering bombs and damaging running game likely putting him in the mix for a permanent spot in the NSW Origin team moving forward. 


Appeared on this list last year and while his debut didn’t come in 2022, there is the belief that Paul Alamoti is ready to explode onto the scene in 2023.

The teenage local junior scored four tries in 15 games of NSW Cup last season, averaging 150 run metres per game, but had a few injury concerns throughout the campaign. 

The door is now open for Alamoti to move into the top side following Aaron Schoupp’s departure, and he is likely to gain a starting spot for Round 1 at this stage. 

Bulldogs great Willie Mason has been keeping a close eye on Alamoti’s progress during pre-season and believes he has what it takes to be a major star in the NRL.

“He hasn’t played first grade yet, but the wraps on that kid coming through – he was up there with Joseph Sua’ali’i,” he told YKTR Sports.

“What I see at training is f*****g outstanding…he is 18 years old, Alamoti is just all class. Hopefully he can put a full season together, he was injured last year with syndesmosis for 10-12 weeks and it really derailed his season, otherwise he would have played first grade.

“He is my player to watch, he’s a really good kid, good attitude and he’s that kind of kid we want to see succeed because he’s a Bulldogs junior.”

Alamoti is definitely one player to keep an eye on heading into the season and could be a contender for Dally M Rookie of the Year honours. 


Rounds 5-8: Cowboys [H], Rabbitohs [H], Eels [A], Sharks [H] 

After starting the 2023 season with some very winnable games, this is going to be a tough four-week stretch for the Bulldogs and a real test of their top-eight credentials. 

In Round 5 and 6, Canterbury will be at home at Accor Stadium but will be facing take on two sides who made the prelim finals last year in North Queensland and South Sydney back-to-back.

The following weekend will pit the Dogs up against old rivals Parramatta away, before a tough assignment at home against Cronulla in Round 8. 

If they can escape with two wins from these four games, that will put Canterbury in a good spot heading into the middle of the year. 


Canterbury are heading in the right direction for 2023, but they are still lacking the quality in some key positions to compete for a premiership or play finals football. 

Halfback and fullback are still areas of concern for this season, but it’s clear the club are looking at rectifying those issues with the signing of Stephen Crichton and their pursuit of a game-winning No.7 long-term.

Cameron Ciraldo faces a tough assignment in his first year in charge of the Bulldogs, but there is plenty of reason to be optimistic and the side should finish with somewhere between 10-12 victories for the year. 


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