A lot has happened at Belmore in the offseason, a lot of good hard training, new recruits fitting into the balance and culture of the club, players recovering from injuries.
Then you have the Mad Monday commotion, Dylan Napa and his “unwanted highlights reel”, the salary cap mess left from the previous regime, and the fact that the Bulldogs have been tipped to take out the wooden spoon in 2019.
When things happen off the field, clubs either respond positively and bring in results on the field or they put their head in the sand and don’t perform at all.
David Klemmer spoke out to the media after the Mad Monday incident indicating coach Dean Pay will motivate a “backs against the wall” mentality with the team (something Des Hasler couldn’t achieve whilst coaching the Bulldogs).
“I think we’ve come leaps and bounds… we were tight already but we’ve become extremely close since that,” he told Fox Sports.
“We’re backing all the players, we’re behind all the players involved.
“Just before our presentation (coach Dean Pay) got us all together and we were united. So as a group we’re really tight, there’s a good feeling now”.
In the past, previous coached Bulldogs sides have thrived under controversy. In 2004 you had a team still reeling over the 2002 salary cap drama, and in the same season, there was the Coffs Harbour incident. They later prevailed to take out the premiership.
In 1995 they crawled into the finals a year after finishing 1st and getting rolled in the decider by Canberra. Terry Lamb has previously spoken about that 95′ finals series and what helped them succeed.
“How did we do in 1995? No-one could really do it except us, the players. We moulded together very tight and every Monday we’d have a beer together and celebrate our win. It could have been our game every week. We got together after each game and spoke about what was going on,” Lamb told the Daily Telegraph.
“I think we were 8/1 to win it. We got the rub of the green on the day. You take the luck when it comes and that’s what we did. We spoke about what we could do for each other. We didn’t pull any punches either. We spoke through our heart and we spoke the truth.”
Dean Pay was a part of that 1995 side, and although last season was below average, Pay seems to be connecting better with the players than Hasler did.
I expect coach Dean Pay to fire up this side from the get-go, and when things get tough I’m sure he won’t hesitate to use what has happened to his advantage and get this side to bring out their inner beast.
I’m not by any means suggesting they will win the premiership in 2019. What they will do is be fiercely competitive, with a never say die attitude.
The Bulldogs have a rich history of sticking together through thick and thin and bringing in results on the field. Dean Pay knows the Bulldogs culture and what is needed throughout this phase and he will get this group to respond with results.