On the 11th of February, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs Football Club members will elect a new Board. After such a tumultuous and disappointing recent history, it is a decision that will require careful thought and consideration.
When it comes to voting, Australian citizens do not have the best track record in terms of both turning up or voting seriously with appropriate and legitimate pencil marks.
In fact, we all probably hurl away dozens of notifications for the AGMs and Board elections of financial bodies, local clubs and other organisations of which we are members.
I am sure the statistics vary yet it would reasonable to say that a considerable percentage of members stay away and voting numbers are generally on the lower side of the scale.
For the Bulldogs, the magic number has historically been around five hundred, with those absent undoubtedly feeling that the Club’s status as a powerhouse of the NRL was financially assured and the future of the playing squad appearing bright.
Sadly, something is considerably different this time around. After two years of misery, distortion and in-fighting that has created great mirth for other clubs, those traditionally jealous of the Bulldogs’ success, the time is nigh.
Watching the Parramatta Eels era of disarray has been something of a hobby for many fans of the NRL. Boardroom drama after boardroom drama besieged the Eels and everyone shook their heads at the negative impact it had upon the team.
Could a board actually be so naïve to think that their behaviour and decision making could exist in a vacuum, totally removed from the culture of the broader Club and the performance of the team?
Apparently, at the Eels, they could and only after third party intervention have they turned the corner.
What Canterbury fans need to realise right now, is that, as Parramatta have gradually steered to more steady waters; facing some harsh realities after a stern look in the mirror, the blue and whites have actually become what they once mocked.
It is now the Belmore boys who are the butt of the jokes and the source of mirth for a broad rugby league community that always hated terms like ‘Bulldog culture’ and ‘dogs of war’.
Opposition fans have waited years to enjoy the chaos currently being played out at the Club and now they have it, served on a platter by a Chairman and Board who have led the members and fans down a garden path to failure.
Put simply, Des Hasler was signed after a successful tenure at Manly and a fine coach he once was. Sadly, after a promising start where expansive forward play and variety in attack brought instant success, he pulled back the creativity like a turtle withdrawing its head from view.
For three and a half years, the coach persisted with Tony Williams who, in my opinion, is the worst player I have ever seen wear the blue and white. All the while, the inane forward-based attack was eaten up by teams prepared to play more expansively and without fear.
The Bulldogs’ halves were not of first grade standard and the attacking potential of the team became impotent.
Somewhere along the line, Hasler lost his courage.
Subsequently, things fell apart off the field, the Bulldogs became a joke and the heart and soul of the team was sold off, leaving Dean Pay to somehow clean up the mess in 2018.
Hasler’s legal challenge was avoidable in the most simple form, yet his imbecilic re-signing has given him leverage.
When Ray Dib appeared on 2SM in the winter of 2017, to answer the questions of the members and host, Club legend Graeme Hughes, the picture of the Club presented was an utter distortion. According to Dib, everything was rosy, things were great and the Club was surging forward.
The nine-hundred people with the power to call the board to account and/or make a change, need to remind themselves of the turmoil of recent times.
One simple fact remains. The Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs should be talking about how Aaron Woods and Keiran Foran will gel into the squad, they should be announcing the new Captain Josh Jackson and discussing the approach of Dean Pay and how the squad will improve as a team in 2018.
Instead, the board elections continue to dominate the commentary. My simple message to the nine hundred people charged with making the decision that shapes the short term future of the club is clear.
If they want to spend the next two years discussing politics, infighting and reliving the poor decisions made, stay home. No need to vote if you like that sort of thing.
If you would prefer to see the Dogs return to something closer to their history, with a connection to the local community and a rediscovery of their culture, turn up and vote. Moreover, have a close look at the people challenging the status quo; the Bulldog spirit is in their blood.