Canterbury Bulldogs conspiracy theory shared by Cameron Smith after NRL Round 1 Parramatta loss

NRL legend Cameron Smith has questioned if Bulldogs captain Stephen Crichton is really happy about playing in the centres for his new club.

The former Panthers strike weapon was signed to a multimillion-dollar, four-year deal with the Dogs last year with widespread reports the club saw the 23-year-old as its long term fullback.

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The NSW State of Origin representative began his Canterbury career in the centres during the club’s Round 1 loss to the Eels where the Dogs’ lethal looking left-edge never fired up.

Parramatta were a class above the Bulldogs in the 26-8 result at Commbank Stadium, with the Bulldogs’ pair of tries coming from mistakes late in the game.

Coming off a horror 2023 season where the proud club finished 15th on the table with the NRL’s worst defence and second worst attack, Saturday’s first hit out did little to convince fans the club’s eight-year finals drought will end this year.

Crichton was named captain by the Bulldogs last month with the club taking the job away from Matt Burton and Reed Mahoney.

NRL stats show Crichton received the ball just 14 times and made eight runs for 62m against the Eels and it triggered immediate calls for him to be moved back to fullback.

Smith has also raised that question.

Ciraldo still happy despite Dogs loss | 04:16

“Stephen Crichton, I just wonder whether he really wants to be playing in the centres in this football team or whether he wants to wear the No. 1,” Smith said on SEN Breakfast.

“I still have that query. At the end of the day he may want to play fullback but what needs to happen is he needs to play in the position that is going to help the team.”

The Bulldogs’ recruitment gamble of signing up utility players didn’t appear to be the solution to the club’s scoring woes on Saturday night with NRL commentators divided on what the club’s best team looks like.

Smith, Panthers great Greg Alexander and Raiders legend Laurie Daley on Monday morning all questioned the club’s decision to start the year with Blake Taaffe in the No. 1 jumper while there have also been suggestions from Panthers legend Mark Geyer that Toby Sexton is the club’s best playmaking option and should be playing ahead of Drew Hutchison.

Matt Burton of the Bulldogs. Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images.Source: Getty Images

Daley was most worried about the club’s left edge of five-eighth Burton, second-rower Viliame Kikau, centre Crichton and winger Josh Addo-Carr.

“They’ve got to find ways to unlock the left edge,” Daley said on Sky Sports Radio.

“If they can’t then they’ve got to find a way to get more out of Stephen Crichton so therefore you might have to look at pushing him back to fullback to get him more involved in the game.

“You can’t have him sitting out there not getting any ball at all.”

Daley said the Bulldogs will not make the finals in 2024.

Alexander said the Bulldogs do not look like “a settled team”.

The Dally M Medal winner, speaking on SEN, also said Burton should be moved out of five-eighth and shifted to the centres.

Panthers cult hero Geyer, speaking on Triple M’s Mick & MG in the morning, also called for Burton to be shifted to the centres.

After a full pre-season of preparations it appears the Bulldogs will need to go through another significant shake-up to kick start their 2024 campaign.

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