The season previews continue as we preview every NRL team by talking to their own fans.
Whispers have persisted throughout 2019 of Canterbury’s desperation to offload coach Dean Pay, rumours that were proven true when the administration decided to extend his contract.
But with the coach returning five wins from seven matches to revive the struggling club, the entire organisation has been thrown into utter disarray.
With the man they contractually endorsed now affirming the faith he was shown six months ago, a rugby league administration may be forced into the unprecedented move of honouring an extension without an undisclosed payout or a restraining order.
For the uninitiated, contracts in the contemporary era are popularly considered ‘not worth the paper they are written on’, an insult not only to the concept’s one-time legal sanctity but also to paper.
Clubs like St George Illawarra and Penrith are renowned for popularising the curiously hasty extension, with the latter notorious for including a six-year upgrade with its termination notices.
The Bulldogs were the latest to adopt the practice by adding another year to Pay’s deal in March, with canny bosses believing there was no better time to secure him from suitors than with his side running last.
It had an immediate effect with fans and powerbrokers, especially when the team responded to the reinforced stability by remaining stably reinforced to the bottom.
Pay replaced former coach Des Hasler under the club’s strategy to reinstate its famous ‘bred not bought’ values, with bosses promising to go back to the good old days of developing its own sagas internally rather than with an overpaid intruder.
Administrators justified his extension by citing a want for unity after an era of unrest, a time when Canterbury hit rock bottom when CEO Raelene Castle left for the Wallabies because she wanted to work somewhere stable.
Nevertheless, the club’s endorsement of Pay immediately sent speculation over his job into overdrive, instantly linking the organisation with a number of coaches and generating predictable rumours of player unrest.
While the club publicly fuelled the whispers with repeated public statements of confidence in Pay, he was given a vote of support by the playing group when they assured him there was no sign of Jarryd Hayne, Robbie Farah or factional Liberal powerbrokers.
However, Pay is now thriving after the club ultimately failed to capitalise on his team’s extended stint in the competition cellar.
The coach has shaped a formidable outfit in the back-end of the season that can do more than just complete sets at a ridiculously disciplined clip, in the process providing nuisance value both internally and externally.
Pay has achieved this with cunning tactics and shrewd retail, scrounging a competitive team from the likes of Josh Jackson, some low-profile recruits and the rest via charitable donations and promotional codes.
His unit has been further complemented by names such as Corey Harawira-Naera and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, both of whom joined the club this season after being released from Penrith because they are good.
But for undeniable proof of the Doggies resurgence, one must forget wins and dignity and look to the player market.
With fabricated links to blue-chip talent like Latrell Mitchell and the Trbojevic brothers, there is no better indication a club has returned to its lofty standing in the rugby league consciousness than association with a higher quality of unrealistic rumour.
It all points to Pay defying the odds and fulfilling his brief to reinstate the Bulldogs’ famous principle, which at last check was one of ‘the Dogs of war’, ‘the family club’ and/or ‘the entertainers’, pending domain name availability.