Why Dolphins must avoid going down Michael Jordan-David Beckham road

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Pictured here, Wayne Bennett at his Dolphins unveiling on Thursday.
Wayne Bennett was officially unveiled as Dolphins coach on Thursday. Pic: Getty

OPINION

Back in the mid-1990s, some genius at Canterbury-Bankstown took one look at what the Sydney Roosters were doing and decided they too would tinker with a name synonymous with the district and decades of success.

They told us by dropping "Canterbury-Bankstown" from the title and rebranding as the generic "Sydney Bulldogs", the club could become as instantly recognisable as Manchester United or the Chicago Bulls around the sporting world.

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Just imagine: David Beckham, Michael Jordan and……Darren Britt.

Yes, this was considered forward thinking back in the day when Super League was promising to take over the world and slick, finger-clicking marketing gurus dressed in shiny suits were given seats at boardroom tables.

Canterbury played the 1995 season as the "Sydney Bulldogs" before becoming the "Canterbury Bulldogs" for four years and finally the "Bulldogs" – from postcode unknown – from 2000-09.

There was no consultation with fans, no group studies conducted, no vote taken.

Club great Terry Lamb said at the time: "Since Super League we probably got away from our roots. We weakened our name and brand by changing the name (to the Bulldogs)."

Lifetime Bulldogs fan Andrew Caltagirone recalled: "It diminished our identity. The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs - that’s who we are, that's our fibre, that's what made the club into what it was. 

"It felt like we sold out and it felt like we lost some identity when they changed the name."  

The Bulldogs board listened – no doubt influenced by a Daily Telegraph poll in which 10,000 fans demanded the old name return – and reinstated "Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs" from season 2010.   

Canterbury's attempt to lure outsiders at the expense of the rusted-on fan and the district from which they hatched is a timely reminder to the Dolphins board as they pig-headedly steam ahead with plans to ignore their geographical roots and go with a generic name ahead of their entry into the NRL in 2023.

It's caused an almighty stink among those they are trying to win over, with the local Moreton Bay Council threatening to pull its funding.

Wayne Bennett is pictured here after being confirmed as Dolphins coach.
Wayne Bennett speaks to the media after being confirmed as Dolphins coach. Image: AAP

Mayor Peter Flannery said the situation 'stinks' and called it 'a slap in the face' to fans and the region.

New coach Wayne Bennett neatly side-stepped the debate as he was unveiled as the Dolphins inaugural coach, all those years in the game telling him day one probably wasn't the ideal moment to contradict his new employer. 

There will be time for that later on.

Bennett must admire his board's stubbornness, if nothing else.

"We’re in Moreton Bay, that’s where our base is and where we’re operating from. But we’re a national brand and need to appeal to way more people than south-east Queensland," CEO Tony Murphy said when asked if there had been a re-think over the name.

It looks like the shiny suits have found themselves a new sucker.

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