It’s the return of the prodigal son and an end to being bullied by bigger packs … hopefully.
The arrival back in Bulldogs land of former skipper-coach Trent Hilton has provided the side’s forwards with the “big-bodied leader” they craved.
But in a blow to the side, halfback Marcus Hayne has been lost due to him starting university this year.
Hilton captain-coached Gunnedah in 2015 and 2016 before sitting out last season due to a knee injury.
On several occasions last season Gunnedah coach Sean Hayne flagged the size of his pack as being a concern when compared to North Tamworth and Narrabri’s packs.
Trent’s got a bit of size, and he gives us a bit of direction on the field.- Sean Hayne
In the end, that concern was justified as the Bulldogs faded in the finals and Norths and Narrabri made the grand final.
Hayne said: “Trent’s got a bit of size, and he gives us a bit of direction on the field, which is good.”
Hayne said the nucleus of last season's side had been maintained.
Veteran Bulldogs centre Aaron Donnelly agreed that the team “lacked a bit of size” last season and Hilton provided them with a much-needed “big body”.
“He’s a good footballer,” Donnelly added. “It’s good to have him back.
“He gives us more depth in the forwards. Hopefully we’ll pick up a few more players.”
It is hoped former players Jordy Ford and Jason Smith will return this year to reinforce the pack. The good mates played for the same club in England.
“At the moment they’re committed [to playing] but you never know,” Donnelly said, adding that Smith flagged the possibility of him leaving town this year.
Hayden Jaeger, who can play second-row or centre, has also returned after missing last season because of work commitments.
Hayne described him as a “handy acquisition”.
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