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The Dogs of War mentality wasn’t intended for the board room

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18th September, 2020
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With the team languishing and an administration at war, perhaps Canterbury’s attempts to reinvigorate their gritty fighting culture may be better applied on-field.

That’s the opinion of most judges warming their hands around the Bulldogs’ bin fire, a once-imperial brand battling to avoid a wooden spoon while its administration makes amends by indicting and/or thumping each other.

For those unaware, the eight-time premiership winners are deeply entrenched in turmoil and headlines, a far cry from the days when they were deeply entrenched in turmoil and headlines and running seventh.

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While the team recorded a boil-over win on Thursday night against the Bunnies to move off the bottom of the table, it’s been perpetual slim pickings despite a plucky squad showing plenty of pride in the flak jacket.

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The Bulldogs sift through the rubble of a rank roster, all while the administration goes to war in one of those bitter board battles so spiteful and Sydney-centric it could end up in the Supreme Court, or more embarrassingly, What’s the Buzz.

Canterbury’s crisis follows a heralded return to the club’s Dogs of War heyday upon the appointment of Dean Pay in 2017, with the former back-rower hired to instil the good old-fashioned values so celebrated in his time, beating up opponents in the ’90s.

Dean Pay

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

But the moment the board empowered the coach with the mandate to restore the famous catch cry, they left him in no doubt of their expectations by promptly applying the approach upon each other, mostly over his job security.

Now fast-forward three years and the club has destabilised to such a state that when Canterbury players are going through their strenuous warm-ups, fans aren’t sure if it’s for a game or an AGM.

It seemed like only yesterday the Dogs were rugby league’s most tyrannical brand, a club that accomplished everything there was to achieve from producing premierships and internationals to blowing unassailable comps with systematic rorting.

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But years of mismanagement have left the club’s roster in a dire state, resulting in the virtual reserve grade side we see today. The side is so undermanned it’s almost as threatening to advertising dollars as their Mad Mondays.

Many believe the rot began with the Des Hasler years, an era renowned for dogmatic completion rates on the field and the exact opposite off, with many players signed to stratospheric long-term deals before premature exile to lower-grade sides like the reggies or the Tigers.

This fallout resulted in the club paying rival organisations to employ James Graham, Aaron Woods, David Klemmer, Brett Morris, Josh Morris and Moses Mbye – losses that were luckily offset on tax as charitable donations.

Following was an attempted circuit breaker with the appointment of Pay, who after establishing himself as the nicest guy in footy, departed the club after two hellish seasons of ably serving his brief as a patsy.

But such is the prevailing state of the club, even incoming coach Trent Barrett has been openly encouraged by Phil Gould to back out of his three-year deal, an unsurprising piece of advice from a man who likes to sack people after employing them, not before.

Trent Barrett

(Photo by Jason O’Brien/Getty Images)

Nevertheless, the new coach has given his word he will honour his sentence, immediately setting about bolstering the playing roster with a number of deals, some that may even see their agreed completion date.

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This includes Nick Cotric and Manly forward Corey Waddell, two acquisitions that send a strong message Barrett intends to stock up on serviceable forwards and high-priced backs to complement the club’s already-heaving stocks of serviceable forwards and high-priced backs, which will make him popular in Supercoach, if nothing else.

Can Barrett harness the squad’s boundless application? Judging by his previous roles, there’s no doubt he could provide an immediate boost, or already be negotiating a release payout.

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