Why Ciraldo’s ‘five-year plan’ is a huge risk for desperate dogs


Giving any NRL coach a five-year contract whose last name is not Bellamy, Robinson or Bennett is a risk.

To hand one to a rookie who has nine NRL substitute games under his belt is a huge gamble.

Canterbury put an end to any lingering doubt on Sunday when it finally announced that Cameron Ciraldo would take the helm from 2023 on a five-year deal.

Even Des Hasler, a Manly legend who has won two premierships as a player and a few more as a manager as he nears 500 games, is on a three-year, incentive-based deal.

The original “super coach” Jack Gibson never stayed more than three years at a club because he was convinced the players had stopped listening to the same voice over and over again.

Ciraldo will continue to help Ivan Cleary with the Panthers until the end of this season before starting pre-season training with the Bulldogs in November.

Cameron Ciraldo. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

The 37-year-old former Sharks, Knights and Panthers second rower will have some familiar faces when he lobbies at Belmore in the form of five-eighth Matt Burton, incoming star rookie Viliame Kikau and general manager Phil Gould, who was running the show at Penrith when Ciraldo played his final two seasons and during the early years of his coaching apprenticeship.

Gould was known for his five-year plan to rebuild the club which continued well beyond that term and he made a similar investment in Ciraldo, who had recently fended off an approach from the Wests Tigers for a similar period.

The decision to give Ciraldo such a long contract for his first head coaching assignment could prove to be a masterstroke, it could backfire on the Bulldogs.

Just two years ago, they made similar claims about how another former Panthers assistant coach, Trent Barrett, was going to turn the tide.

But 18 months into a three-year contract, Barrett saw the writing on the wall and jumped down before being pushed out the kennel door.

Mick Potter has done a great job as a keeper and if he doesn’t stay on Ciraldo’s support staff at the Dogs he should have no trouble finding a job elsewhere, maybe if a coaching job -chef is released in the near future.

He was handed a nigh-impossible first assignment as NRL head coach a decade ago at the Wests Tigers and well deserves another chance.

How Ciraldo goes into his first crack as a honcho leader will be one of the main storylines of 2023.

The Bulldogs are still rebuilding after the mess left by Des Hasler’s contracts with aging veterans, which reduced any chance Dean Pay had of succeeding when he was named coach.

Ciraldo inherits an improving roster with Kikau hooker and Eels Reed Mahoney adding to a squad that has started to find its feet under Potter.

The decision to move Jake Averillo from halves or center to fullback gave the Dogs a striking weapon from behind. He will only get better in the No.1 shirt.

Potter is also getting better value from one of this year’s star signings, Tevita Pangai jnr, bringing him from the edge to the middle where he can be at his destructive best.

Burton’s playmaking skills have improved over the season – he’ll never be a chief organizer at five-eighth, and shouldn’t be, but his impact on the attacking side has all but exploded since he took over. received his first NSW. jersey in Origin II.

Matt Burton

(Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

His combination on the left side with Josh Addo-Carr becomes one of the best punches in the NRL.

Sorting out the halfback will be Ciraldo’s main task. Kyle Flanagan, after Gould curiously told Barrett the young playmaker wasn’t ready for the first year at the start of the season, has gradually become more effective in the No.7 shirt.

He enters 2023 in the final year of his contract and Canterbury surrounds rising St George Illawarra star Jayden Sullivan, who is set to leave if the Dragons achieve their goal of extending skipper Ben Hunt’s contract for a few more years.

There have been many examples recently brought up of rookie coaches being handed the keys to a team and then quickly removed from the driver’s seat, like Pay, Garth Brennan, John Morris (perhaps unfairly) or having their futures in great jeopardy. like Justin Holbrook and Adam O’Brien.

Anthony Seibold, like Ciraldo, got a five-year deal despite a brief resume.

He had won the Dally M Coach of the Year award after taking the Rabbitohs to the Finals in his rookie year before being awarded a long-term, multi-million dollar contract by the Broncos.

Canterbury Bulldogs players celebrate a try

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

After all sorts of off-season machinations, he ended up switching roles with Wayne Bennett a year earlier, but Seibold’s move to Brisbane ended in two-season disaster as Bennett took the Bunnies to the big time. last year’s final.

It’s the glass-half-empty view — the example the Bulldogs hope to replicate is Craig Fitzgibbon’s first-year success with the Sharks.

Fitzgibbon served an even longer and more successful spell as an assistant with the Roosters before signing on the dotted line with Cronulla and even he only got a three-year offer.

He was heading for a much better situation than Ciraldo will face – Morris had bloodied several promising young prospects after the 2016 premiership-winning side either moved on or were moved on.

Ciraldo is unlikely to do too much roster reshuffling ahead of his debut season, but he will have flexibility for 2024 and beyond – Canterbury have just five players under contract beyond next year.

His arrival should help them in their quest to extend the contract of their most important player at Burton, who will not opt ​​for his 2024 option because he could earn much more elsewhere.

The Dogs will be able to spend the money to lock down Burton and build around him to ensure Ciraldo has everything he needs to break Canterbury’s longest playoff drought since the 1950s.

In the end, Canterbury did well to sign the person presented as the best option on the market and the five-year deal is fraught with challenges, but when you’re at a club that demands success and you’re on the point of missing the final for a sixth consecutive year, you have to take a risk.




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