Just a month after they officially farewelled him from the club, Canterbury have re-signed Michael Lichaa on a two-year contract. And with Des Hasler finally out of the picture, the NRL is set to see the real Michael Lichaa in 2018.
Lichaa finally showcased his potential in the final games of the season after a fairly lackluster three years with the Bulldogs. In Canterbury’s final game of the year, against the Dragons, Lichaa produced one of his career best games as ran over 70 metres, broke the line, scored the match winning try and had a hand in two others.
That’s the Michael Lichaa that the Bulldog’s fans have been waiting years to see.
Signed in the lead up to the 2015 season as a replacement for Michael Ennis, Lichaa’s style of play had been likened to Isaac Luke because of his strong running game. But as soon as he stepped foot into Belmore, his running game vanished.
During his 65 game career in the blue and white, Lichaa has cracked 100 metres in a game just once. In fact, the hooker has ran for 27 metres or less a stunning 28 times, a staggeringly low figure.
It appeared Des Hasler had coached the running out of the hooker, and was ready to let him go from the club. Enter Dean Pay.
One of Pay’s first decisions as a head coach was to re-sign Lichaa on a two-year deal, despite Cronulla utility Fa’amanu Brown signing with the club for next year, originally touted as Lichaa’s replacement.
Things are finally turning around for the young hooker. Just a fortnight ago, he was clubless, he had no offers from rival clubs, he was unsure if he was even going to be able to play rugby league professionally again. Now, his future is secured for a further two years, as well being named in Lebanon’s World Cup squad.
By re-signing the rake, it’s the first real testament to the style of play Dean Pay is looking to implement into the Bulldog’s system, and to the delight of their fans, it appears to be a more attacking style than what Des Hasler offered up.
New recruits Aaron Woods and Kieran Foran are definite steps in the right direction for the club, and now Lichaa has re-signed, Pay’s next focus has to be the recruitment of some strong outside backs.
The Dogs have had a heavy reliance on their forwards in recent years, even in the ball-playing department. Since the departure of Ben Barba, Canterbury have lacked spark in their backline. Even rep duo Brett and Josh Morris are on the decline, though the emergence of Marcelo Montoya is a good indicator of the Bulldog’s future.
Now that the rugby league world has had a glimpse of what he can do, it’s time for Dean Pay to let the dummy-half free from his shackles, and show us the real Michael Lichaa.