Based on Kikau’s poor opening performance, worried Bulldogs fans have dug up another T-Rex

Much has been made of the Bulldogs’ spending spree in a Phil Gould-driven attempt to rebuild and reverse a long period of mediocrity.

The redesigned Bulldogs collective took on Manly and were comprehensively beaten on Saturday and while there were positive signs, particularly in the form of Reed Mahoney, it was the performance of one of the club’s most notable signings that should draw most of the attention .

With a reported $800,000 a season and a belief that both new head coach Cameron Ciraldo and Gould are at the core of the acquisition, Viliame Kikau came to the Dogs as a man reportedly capable of putting fear into defense bring and successfully combine with Matt Burton in a refreshed left attack.

Well, that’s what so many Blue and White fans have been told. Personally, I’ve always felt that Kikau benefited from the hard and successful work of Isaah Yeo, Liam Martin and the other Penrith forwards who were willing to roll up their sleeves and lay the foundation for success.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 4: Viliame Kikau of the Bulldogs is tackled during the NRL first round game between the Manly Sea Eagles and the Canterbury Bulldogs at 4 Pines Park on March 4, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Vilame Kikau. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Following this, Kikau would loiter around the left edge and tumble over or through defensive lines, exposing much smaller men on the edge of the ruck. Frankly, Kikau seemed to be the beneficiary of a very polished and efficient attack on the Panthers and was rarely, if ever, the guy to forge the yards that led to dominance.

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Perhaps those responsible for luring Kikau to the Bulldogs and the player himself fell for the hype.

Based on the weak and listless numbers he produced in the opening round of the season, fans of a club widely tipped for significant improvement in 2023 would have every right to expect a lot more from the 27-year-old.

Statistically, the Hounds were outplayed that day, with Daly Cherry-Evans putting in one of his best performances on home soil. The Manly half was sensational from Go to Whoa and despite the Bulldogs’ best efforts, the match was in Manly’s control when Kyle Flanagan was ridiculously sent to the Sin-Bin late in the first half.

All along, Kikau was missing tackles, running shyly for a player of his perceived worth and tackling less than other men who were more desperate and committed.

By the time the final siren rang, Kikau had carted the ball forward a boring 96 yards from 10 pedestrian runs – one of which was a rebound – breaking a total of zero tackles and playing the ball at a slow average of 4.57 seconds as a result of the frequent ease with which he was pushed back in tackles by the strong Manly defense.

Based on what Kikau has done against the Sea Eagles and his wide but seldom damaging runs for the Panthers in recent seasons, the Fijian seems convincing in his candidacy for the role of NRL downhill skier.

Canterbury need Kikau to impose and exert their presence at games, that’s what his salary demands and his opening performance was simply that of a player earning around half what the new recruit earns.

For Bulldgos fans, the memories of Tony Williams, the club’s worst signing, would have been pretty close. The former Manly star arrived at Belmore with an undeserved reputation, churning out four seasons of nonsense while absorbing $600,000 of the salary cap.

It would be difficult to dismiss fears that Kikau could be something similar for the club given their first NRL efforts.


Reuben Garrick meets. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Kikau managed just one discard, made fewer tackles than any other Canterbury starting forward and awkwardly missed six due to his jumper-grabbing technique which is utterly untenable.

Throw in two errors and two conceded penalties and the Bulldogs board should well consider themselves in deficit after the opening attempt by one of the club’s highest-paid players.

Even more alarming than the stats was the rather clumsy way Kikau struggled to make a real statement in their new colours.

There was very little Terry Lamb or Josh Jackson in his endeavor and a heck of a lot more Tony Williams; something the Bulldogs hadn’t paid for or, perhaps naively, expected. Based on Kikau's poor opening performance, worried Bulldogs fans have dug up another T-Rex

Russell Falcon

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