Bulldogs veteran Aaron Donnelly has echoed the feelings of his team ahead of the new season, describing 2019 as an “all or nothing” tilt for that elusive premiership.
New Bulldogs coach John Hickey has made Donnelly part of a four-man leadership group charged with, as the mentor put it, the team’s “attitude and actions throughout the year”.
The other members of the group are Reece Jaeger, Matt Brady and new signing Matt Baker, who has returned home after playing first grade for Central in Newcastle.
There’s a group of us who have been playing for a few years – we just wanna win the comp.Aaron Donnelly
Donnelly was part of Gunnedah’s 34-28 grand final loss to North Tamworth in September.
He is one of the few surviving members of Gunnedah’s other grand final loss this decade: a 56-18 capitulation to the Bears in 2014.
“This [season] is pretty much all or nothing for me. I just wanna win,” Donnelly said.
“I think that’s what everyone’s thinking: we wanna win … we wanna win the comp – we’ve been trying for a long time.
“There’s a group of us who have been playing for a few years – we just wanna win the comp.”
Donnelly said it was “tough” knowing how close the Bulldogs came to dethroning reigning five-time premiers Norths last season, but “just couldn’t get there”.
“On the day they were a bit better than us. Hard to swallow,” he said, adding that losing to such a dominant team by a small margin meant “you can sort of keep your head held high a little bit”.
Being involved in a leadership group is a first for Donnelly, and an experience he is “playing by ear”.
“It’s not a bad idea,” he said, adding that it would improve communication between the players and Hickey.
He said players could speak to leadership group members if any “issue” or “questions” arose, and the group would relay that to Hickey.
“I think that’s the main priority for it – just to keep everyone in the loop, know what’s going on, keep everyone happy, sort of thing,” he said.