Canterbury should seriously consider a bid for departing Warriors’ playmaker Blake Green who, along with the signing of a “class” fullback, would make the Bulldogs a “hard team to beat”, says Eighth Immortal Andrew Johns.
New Zealand Warriors owner Mark Robinson recently announced that Green would lead an exodus of players managed by controversial NRL agent Isaac Moses after the sacking of coach Stephen Kearney, who is also a client of Moses.
Green has been in strong form for the Warriors in recent weeks and was one of the best players on the field in their victory over the Broncos on Saturday night.
Now 33, Green has played some of his best football since arriving in Auckland from Manly in 2018, and NSW coach Brad Fittler still sees him as a good enough player to play a role in a premiership-calibre outfit.
“At the moment he’s doing a great job,” Fittler told Wide World of Sports’ Freddy and the Eighth.
“Personally I couldn’t think why you couldn’t put people around Blake Green and have him as the steady person in the team.
“I think at the moment he’s shown me enough that he could be that steady ship if you have someone around him.”
For the first time in years the Bulldogs have money to spend to add some genuine quality to a roster that lacks polish.
After briefly pursuing the reigning Dally M Second-rower of the Year, John Bateman, the Bulldogs have turned their focus to his Raiders teammate Nick Cotric, with a reported offer of $600,000-a-year tabled to bring him over as a centre/winger.
But according to Johns they should be saving their money for the key playmaking positions to revitalise an attack that has become the least effective in the competition under Dean Pay.
Johns sees Green as part of that picture as a partner for Kieran Foran after young halves Jack Cogger, Lachlan Lewis and Brandon Wakeham have failed to convince in combination with the senior half.
“Blake Green and Kieran Foran behind that forward pack, throw in another world class fullback,” Johns told Wide World of Sports’ Freddy and the Eighth.
“With Blake Green there and Kieran Foran healthy and fit, they would be a hard team to beat.”
The obvious flaw in Johns’ plan is that there are no “world class” fullbacks coming off contract.
The obvious candidates to fit that description would be Tom Trbojevic, James Tedesco or Kalyn Ponga and all three have recently been signed up long-term on big money.
Clint Gutherson is also on a long-term deal, while Latrell Mitchell and Matt Moylan are signed up until the end of next season.
Bulldogs star Dallin Watene-Zelezniak was brought to the club on big money with hopes that he would fill the No.1 jersey for many years but, while he is a quality player, the New Zealand international has played his best football on the wing and Pay has seemingly shelved plans to play him at the back.
So who could be targeted to fill Johns’ plan alongside the recruitment of Green?
The cream of the fullback crop might be off limits, but there are a few potential names that could fit the bill should the right contract be dangled in their face.
Roosters favourite Joey Manu is contracted until the end of 2022, reportedly on a $550k-a-year deal, but will only ever be a centre or winger at the club due to James Tedesco’s presence.
He’s received resounding praise for his stint in the No.1 jersey while filling in for an injured Tedesco recently, with Johns admitting on last week’s Freddy and The Eighth that there would be a string of clubs keen to recruit him on a handsome deal as a fullback.
We’ve seen in recent years how the market can be manipulated by players and managers when position shifts and significant pay rises are a realistic consideration.
Just last year then Roosters star Mitchell engineered an exit from the Roosters with a year to run on his contract due to his burning desire to play fullback and the sense that he could be worth $1 million-a-season playing in that position.
When Green first took up a deal with the Warriors he was a contracted player at Manly but was offered significantly more money to cross the Tasman and made it difficult for the Sea Eagles to stop him.
So if a club like the Bulldogs whispered in Manu’s ear that he could get $750,000-a-season and be a long-term fullback by leaving the Roosters, the wheels could easily start to turn.
Another option for Bulldogs recruitment staff could be to make a beeline for Brisbane and take advantage of the low morale at the Broncos.
Anthony Milford has copped constant criticism this season and according to many critics has not played to his $1 million-a-season price tag.
With Anthony Seibold looking to rebuild the side, the Broncos might be willing to consider releasing Milford should a rival club offer to take him and pay the majority of his salary.
Given Milford made his name as an explosive running fullback at the Raiders, he could be a good fit to ignite the Bulldogs’ attack as part of a spine that also included Foran and Green.
Promising son of NRL icon Wendell Sailor, Tristan, could also be a youngster ready to don the blue and white – and at a fraction of the price. With little game time at the Dragons under his belt and a host of pundits forecasting big things in his future, a move to fullback could be the what kick-starts his career.
Given the torrid injury history of Foran, it would be also handy to have someone like Sailor, who is currently considered a five-eighth, at the club to give the squad flexibility in key positions.