After a 2-6 start to the NRL Premiership season and four losses in their last five matches, the Bulldogs sit bottom of the competition ladder.
They aren’t alone on points, yet that is cold comfort for the passionate blue and white supporters; many of whom were hoping for a year of renewal and restoration.
In truth, most knew that the team would play without the consistency of the more powerful and well equipped clubs this season. There would still be great days, such as the dominant performance against the Tigers in Round 3 and the solid win against the Cowboys in Round 7.
Before, in between and since, the Bulldog’s performances have been average at best, bar the bold effort against the Storm at AAMI Park.
Most alarming has been a left edge defence that leaks tries like a canoe with a serious breach to its hull and an ineffective attacking unit. Despite completing at a rate three percent better than any other NRL side, the Bulldog’s inability to convert their 81 per cent of completions into consistent points is worrying.
A fragile edge that was well and truly exposed by Manly-Warringah last Saturday and an attack that is failing to open up opposition defences is not sustainable in the NRL.
Despite the below par start to the season, Canterbury fans were pleased after Round 2 when coach Dean Pay swung the proverbial axe and made the changes so many had called for.
Moving Will Hopoate into the centres, recalling Rhyse Martin and bringing Jayden Okunbur, Nick Meaney, Jack Cogger and Ofahiki Ogden into the team was met with enthusiasm by the fans and the signs looked promising early.
There was immediate improvement, in spite of the tragic losses of Dylan Napa and Kieran Foran with leg injuries that sat more than a million dollars of talent on the pine.
However, with the club moving on four key components in its football department and fare-welling Andrew Farrar, Gareth Holmes, Warren McDonnell and Andrew Patmore just prior to the match with Manly, the media was quick to pounce on the instability.
Paul Crawley, Paul Kent and Danny Weidler salivated at the opportunity to convey some of the internal challenges of the sackings which were apparently leaked to the media prior to the victims being informed.
Throw in Dean Pay’s somewhat controversial selections in the lead up to the important and winnable match against the Knights at Suncorp Stadium in Magic Round, and it would be fair to say that it has been another whirlwind week for the club.
After the turmoil of the 2018 Football Club elections where Lynne Anderson led a ticket promoting a restoration of club culture and family, the general support for her new team has been strong. Aside from the witch-hunt that was mad Monday at the Harbourview Hotel, the sailing has been relatively smooth.
However, when Pay excluded Lachlan Lewis, Kerrod Holland, Ofahiki Ogden and Rhyse Martin from the team, social media lit up. Kieran Foran appears set to return with Corey Harawira-Naera likely to miss the match due to personal reasons. His unavailability led to Marcelo Montaya being recalled; a controversial decision in the kennel.
Lewis appeared to be the major contention in the minds of the fans, with the young half still growing in his attacking role and certainly not playing behind a dominant pack of forwards last weekend.
Lewis made 33 tackles against Manly, a potential factor in his poor attacking game.
Jack Cogger has been impressive thus far, especially with his defence on the right. With Foran returning, he retains his spot and Lewis is squeezed out.
Was there was space for all three in the team that faces the Knights?
With the precise make-up of the team still fluid, the Bulldogs need an urgent internal regroup, with some journalists reporting disharmony in the playing group and a disconnect between coach and players.
In reality, that is probably standard for a team sitting bottom of the ladder, amidst the disappointment of a poor start to the season.
Just as the players and staff need a united and brave face to present to the Knights on Saturday as do the fans. Now is not the time for division and vitriol.
Now is the time to live up to the club’s motto; Proud to be a Bulldog. It would be great if all the fans we able to be at the ground to cheer their team on against Newcastle. Sadly, that will not be the case thanks to the silly concept that is Magic Round.
Another loss will sting yet a win will rejuvenate hopes, as the Bulldogs head into a challenging run of matches with the Titans, Storm, Raiders and Dragons on the horizon.
This is a huge weekend for Canterbury-Bankstown, one in which their widely acknowledged spirit and passionate fans are needed more than ever.