After weeks of speculation, the Canterbury-Bankstown board have finally made a move on Bulldog’s coach Dean Pay, with both parties agreeing to end their relationship on Monday night.
A 33 per cent win record was never going to be enough for the former representative forward to hold onto his position beyond 2020. Pay was informed of that fact bluntly on Sunday when the Canterbury board expressed a clear desire to look elsewhere for a coaching mentor for the 2021 season.
That desire was further fuelled by the Bulldogs’ eighth loss of the season on Saturday night against the similarly struggling Broncos. With many suggesting the troubles north of the Tweed are terminal, Brisbane still managed to put the cleaners through the Bulldogs to the tune of 26-8; holding the blue and whites to ten points or less for the sixth time this season.
The hard working and loyal fan base that sticks by the club through both thick and thin had high hopes for Pay when he arrived at the kennel in 2018. Blue and white runs through his veins and with former chairman Ray Dib and his board under immense pressure following a host of dubious financial decisions that appeared to be sending the Bulldogs into salary cap hell, his signing buoyed many a spirit.
Sadly, that appears to be all that it achieved, with the performance of the team worsening throughout his tenure and fans now livid that the rebuild they were promised by new Chair Lynne Anderson and her board has failed to materialise.
The Belmore based club is an emotional one, and much has flowed since former coach Des Haslers’ final season and the inconsistent recent years under Pay. The array of talent that departed during those four seasons reads ominously when analysing the current Bulldogs squad.
The losses of Josh and Brett Morris, David Klemmer, Josh Reynolds, Damien Cook, Dale Finucane, James Graham and Moses Mbye stripped the club of much of its soul and was thanks to the mismanagement of a roster that then required a one-step-back in order to take two-steps-forward approach.
Pay effectively inherited a basket case; a broken and ad-hoc squad lacking experience, depth and cohesion. He did his best, which was far from impressive and managed to produce late season runs in 2018 and 2019 to falsely lure the Canterbury fans into believing that there were better times ahead.
In reality, there were not. Even with a trickle of new talent signed in 2019 to bolster what looked a paper thin squad, Pay was still entering a weekly war with a pop gun in hand. As such, he never really stood a chance.
2020 began disastrously with two of his better performers Corey Harawira-Naera and Jayden Okunbor deregistered for the most stupid and immature off-field infringement whilst formally representing the club during the pre-season. They were not replaced and Pay’s chances of success took a further nose dive without his most creative fringe forward and strongest returner of the ball from the back three.
But for a 22-2 win against the now much improved Dragons, the Bulldogs have shown less in 2020 than in 2019 and considerably so. That is ultimately the acid test for a coach; the sheer fact that performances are clearly in reverse with no light looming at the end of a long dark tunnel.
The Bulldogs will invest heavily over the next two seasons, signing big names whilst possessing around A$3 million to do so. The new coach will reap the benefits of such recruitment and Dean Pay may feel somewhat bitter as that calibre of player arrives at Belmore; lamenting the fact that he never possessed the cattle to produce the results demanded by the board and fans.
Dean Pay’s time as a coach at Canterbury may well hurt his future prospects in the NRL. His game plan seemed limited, the team’s efforts to score were inept and rumours around his inability to communicate with players and deliver his message continued until the last days of his tenure.
Bluntly, Pay failed big time. However, the man chosen to take the reins in the ashes of the Dib/Hasler assault on the club was always destined to do it tough.
For Pay, tough now translates to his resignation and departure from the club, despite the fact that he possessed the weakest, flakiest and most unconvincing squad in the NRL.
Could he have done better? Perhaps. Did he really ever have a chance? I doubt it.