This article was first written for NRL.com.
It’s one of my favourite times of year when all fans can’t wait for the season to kick off because everyone’s got a fresh start and hope springs eternal.
With a new season comes the chance for each team to do better than last year, and no team has a better opportunity for a fresh start more than the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs after their off-season overhaul.
They are in an almost unprecedented position of having a new coach, new CEO and new chairperson.
The final piece of their puzzle fell into place on Sunday when the reform ticket led by Lynne Anderson ousted chairman defeated Ray Dib to take control of the boardroom.
Lynne will chair a new board featuring five members of her ticket in her premiership-winning husband Chris Anderson, former players Steve Price and Paul Dunn, plus businessmen John Ballesty and John Khoury.
Club legend Steve Mortimer was the only existing board member to retain his seat.
When it comes to a connection to the Bulldogs, Lynne has it in spades. Her dad, Peter “Bullfrog” Moore, was the club’s patriarch from 1969-1995 and is regarded as the man responsible for instilling a family culture at the club which resulted in five premierships during his reign.
Lynne is also a talented sports administrator and brings with her a wealth of experience in the business world to the club after holding several key positions including marketing manager at the Bulldogs, managing director of Repucom and her current role as CEO of the Australian Paralympic Committee.
What has been most pleasing in the lead-up to Lynne’s election and in the aftermath, is that we finally seem to be in a position in rugby league where gender is irrelevant.
Lynne was elected to a position democratically and largely because of her skills, qualifications and the emphasis she placed on the community in the lead-up to the elections.
I’ve long been of the view that when it comes to women across the board, rugby league is a leader in Australian sport. You only need to look at the breadth of positions and roles that women hold across the game including the continuing rise of our Australian Jillaroos, match officials like Kasey Badger and Belinda Sleeman, women in media like Yvonne Sampson, Lara Pitt and Hannah Hollis, the role of advocates and sponsors of the game like Katie Page and countless members, fans and volunteers.
However, since we lost key women in the game like former NRL COO Suzanne Young in 2016 and Canterbury CEO Raelene Castle last year, one area where women are not as visible is in positions of administration.
There are still several women who represent various clubs at a board level including Marina Go, Vicki Leaver, Katie Bickford, Yvonne Gillett and Bronwyn Fagan.
With the resignation of Catherine Harris from the Australian Rugby League Commission and the news there will only be one woman, Professor Megan Davis, on the proposed 10-person Commission, it becomes more important than ever that women like Lynne Anderson are visible so women understand there is a meaningful place for them in the administration of the game.
The Dogs need a strong leader and they’ve certainly got one now.
Last season will be remembered as one of the most unstable and tumultuous in club history with key players James Graham and Josh Reynolds leaving, Castle announcing her resignation – eventually taking the top gig at Rugby Australia – replaced by World Cup CEO Andrew Hill, and coach Des Hasler being shown the door, with Dean Pay being handed the coaching reins.
All fans crave a fresh start after missing the finals, but the Bulldogs faithful – almost more than any other supporter base – expect success.
It always fascinated me that there was such uproar among their fans after they missed the finals last year. Since arriving at the club in 2012, Hasler led the club to five consecutive playoff series. As a Parramatta Eels fan, a coach who can deliver consistent top-eight finishes is certainly worth their weight in gold.
I hope fans are wise enough to understand success is something which is earnt and which does not happen overnight.
But with people like Lynne Anderson, Dean Pay and Andrew Hill involved, I’m confident that 2018 will bring much-needed stability at the Bulldogs.