Salary cap mismanagement has left Canterbury in a dark place in recent years, but a strong culture has helped them through the period which is now finally coming to an end.
Midway through the past two seasons Canterbury-Bankstown looked near certainties to add timber to their trophy cabinet.
But a winning culture, one that helped drive the Dogs of War motto that’s synonymous with the Belmore brand, has ensured the wooden spoon won’t be heading to Sydney’s west in 2019.
Salary cap mismanagement has left coach Dean Pay with a decimated roster in his rookie seasons as an NRL coach, but the past few months has shown he and the club can finally see light at the end of a very long tunnel.
Throw in potential 2020 recruits Jesse Ramien, Api Koroisau and Herman Ese’eseand you’ve got a side that can again start to realistically eye finals footy.
Resilience, rather than quality, has been a trademark of the blue and white army in recent times.
Entrenched to the bottom of the ladder late in 2018, the Bulldogs would go on to win four of their final six matches to finish 12th.
Similarly, the struggling side were at the depths of the table in 2019. They’ve now won five of their past seven fixtures to elevate themselves to 13th, just one win off the 10th placed Newcastle Knights.
Speaking on the Monday Bunker, Daily Telegraph reporter Paul Crawley acknowledged the job Pay has done with his highly scrutinised roster.
“Kieran Foran came back on the weekend and he was tremendous, he’s had so many injury concerns,” Crawley said.
“Dean Pay made a tough choice leaving Jack Cogger out, but Foran proved him right.
“At the start of the year I was starting to wonder if Dean Pay can coach, I didn’t think they had the squad. Most people said they were going to be the wooden spoon certainties.”
The Courier Mail’s Peter Gleeson added to the praise, identifying a winning culture as the difference between the Bulldogs and embattled Gold Coast Titans.
“They’ve got this wonderful tradition, their culture has always been a good one and that is a winning culture,” Gleeson said.
“That’s the stark difference we see right now between a club like Canterbury who were staring down the barrel of the wooden spoon, and a side like the Titans who just can’t get out of their way at the moment.
“They haven’t built that winning culture, so the default position for the Titans is to lose, the default position for the Canterbury Bulldogs is to win.”