SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 10: Bulldogs players look dejected after conceding a try during the round five NRL match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Melbourne Storm at Stadium Australia, on April 10, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

With as many as 16 players currently unsigned at Belmore and the Bulldogs placed in 18th with an 0-5 start to the season, the early signs are alarming for Canterbury coach Trent Barrett.

The Bulldogs entered the 2021 season with great optimism, as their newly-appointed mentor brought with him a stellar coup of recruits.

Nick Cotric, Corey Allan, Kyle Flanagan, Corey Waddell and Jack Hetherington were snatched up for this season and it was as if the Bulldogs were promised an immediate rise from their gloomful record of yesteryear.

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Perhaps the pending acquisitions of Josh Addo-Carr and Matt Burton had pushed that needle a little too far, but nobody expected their opening month to go so poorly.

With just 34 points to their name - irrespective of which clubs they have faced to date - Barrett's tenure has so far failed to find a spark.

As per reports from The Daily Telegraphas many as 10 senior players could be on the outer at season's end should their poor start seep into the mid-season and rule out any finals hopes that remain.

Dylan Napa headlines the long-list of off-contract key figures, with Will Hopoate, Jeremy Marshall-King, Brandon Wakeham, Chris Smith, Dean Britt and Lachlan Lewis adding to the iceberg.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 10: Josh Jackson of the Bulldogs and team mates looks dejected after a Dragons try during the round 13 NRL match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the St George Illawarra Dragons at ANZ Stadium on June 10, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

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Contracted second-rower Joe Stimson's future has also been questioned, while the injured Christian Chrichton could be shown the door without the chance of proving himself in 2021.

No player has notified of their imminent exit just yet, but with an underperforming roster and overflowing bracket of incumbents playing for their future, it spells for a mass exodus.

You get the feeling that Sunday's trip to Townsville might just show fans which players are willing to play for the badge and which will face the inevitable chop in what will be a scrappy affair to land premiership points.