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The case for Michael Potter

After the moving on of three coaches prior to Round 14 of the 2022 NRL season, the media has enjoyed the opportunity to speculate on those likely to fill the now-vacant roles.

Michael Maguire departed the Tigers after achieving absolutely nothing across the last three seasons, Nathan Brown leaves the Warriors after a similarly diabolical period at the helm, and Trent Barrett was rightfully shown the door at the Bulldogs after just five wins from 34 matches.

The three experienced nothing but failure in these stints and, frankly, deserve the fates served up to them.

Collectively, Maguire, Brown and Barrett have won just 46 of 151 matches in command over the last three seasons. Winning percentages well below 50 were, rightfully, deemed not good enough by their employers and resumes have now been flying in from all quarters, with multiple coaching positions now available.

The Bulldogs opted for Michael Potter, a premiership-winning fullback in the blue and white, with previous NRL coaching experience and, until recently, someone enjoying the challenge of developing a new wave of stars in his role as head coach of Mounties in the NSW Cup.

With Barrett’s departure, Potter was whisked into the top job, a position only a brave man would accept considering the appalling ladder position and general performances he inherited.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 15: Paul Vaughan of the Bulldogs and team mates look dejected during the round six NRL match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Canterbury Bulldogs at Stadium Australia, on April 15, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Under Barrett, Canterbury had won just twice in 2022. A Round 1 win against the Cowboys was followed up by a stunning upset of the Chooks some seven weeks later.

However an embarrassing loss to the Knights during Magic Round was the final straw for the powers that be and – despite Phil Gould’s insistence that Barrett was to be around for an extended period at the kennel – a new coach was summoned for duty.

After success in the United Kingdom, Potter returned to Australia and stepped straight into the living nightmare that was the frightfully fractured Wests Tigers. After a decent period of success under premiership-winning coach Tim Sheens, Potter took over a team seemingly on the slide, managing just seven wins in 2013, before improving them to a 10-14 record the following year.

Performances on the field were one thing, yet the broader rugby league community became aware of the dysfunctional nature of the club’s administrative arm, captured succinctly in Potter’s recollection of his time at the helm.

“I found it to be a different club to any club I’d been with,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. “It was a political hotbed.

“I knew the first day I went in there it was going to be a tough gig. I went in there to coach, not be a politician.”

The lack of success achieved by coaches since suggests his assessment of the situation may well be accurate.

Now, Potter has freed up the Bulldogs’ attack, presented a team that has been competitive in each of the four matches he has overseen, and turned around one of the most startling NRL statistics.

Under Barrett, the Bulldogs managed just 94 points across the opening ten rounds. Since Potter has taken the reins, the team has scored 98 points and scored more tries than their fans could have expected, improving them both individually and collectively across the park.

Canterbury Bulldogs players celebrate a try

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

The contrast in performance and point production is stark and certainly presents a feasible option to the Bulldogs board.

If Potter continues to develop a team over which he has had control for just a month, the possibility of the two parties agreeing on a short-term deal for the former fullback to coach in 2023 is real.

While the NRL rumour mill has Cameron Ciraldo as the man that all clubs in crisis want and need, he is far from proven. Brad Fittler’s name has been curiously linked to the Bulldogs, despite his limited success at NRL level, and Shane Flanagan appears to be interviewing publicly for whichever club might choose to take a risk on a man some believe has done his dash as a coach.

There are other options, with Brown and Maguire disastrous ones for the Bulldogs to consider, and former player Jim Dymock an appointment that would see the faithful pleased to have another club legend on board.

Yet Potter is also a decorated Dog, having won the Dally M Medal in 1984 in blue and white, and is a well-respected, knowledgeable, professional and successful coach.

Perhaps Canterbury has their man right under their nose and need look no further than Michael Potter.

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