Even the most loyal fan of the Bulldogs has to admit that the club is in a dire situation right now.
Currently on eight competition points, they sit only ahead of the Eels heading into Origin bye. The loss to the Titans over the weekend ended a season that has looked dead and buried for over a month.
Despite the struggles on field the Dogs are about to lose the man who has been their best player in 2018 in Moses Mbye with the club confirming his departure to the Tigers.
Big name and money recruit Aaron Woods is being shopped around and could leave the club before June 30, while despite denials from the club, Keiran Foran's future is far from secure.
The second worst club in the NRL is about to lose their in form player and at least one of their big money recruits. That simply is not good enough at this level.
With a few big money departures the Dogs may have room to move for next season but the fact remains they're still paying clubs at least part of a player's salary. The rumour is the Dogs are still paying half of James Graham's salary while he drives the Dragons to the top of the competition.
The Dogs need to act quickly to be able to salvage their 2019. 2018 is done. Dusted! Zero chance of playing finals footy. That is why they have released Mbye and are looking to move Woods on. They've unofficially given up on 2018 with a look to 2019. It's the only way.
Dean Pay and co need to recruit heavily for 2019 and beyond. That will be difficult considering the salary cap position but there are some bargains out there.
Below is the best chance I see for the Dogs being able to turn it around to at least be competitive moving forward.
Fullback: With Moses Mbye out of the club and his likely replacement in Brett Morris likely to head to England, the Dogs need a fullback. With no current first grade player bashing down the door for selection, the club will likely have to look to the player market.
- Lachlan Coote: A premiership winning number one and a ready made first grader who would not break the bank. He's off-contract and the Cowboys have looked in no rush to re-sign him. If I were the Dogs I'd be in contact with Coote's manager ASAP.
Halves: The current Bulldogs halves combination is simply not working. Jeremy Marshall-King is still young and raw while Foran is obviously limited by his injuries. Jack Cogger is signed and will likely slot straight in but I'd still look to Kane Elgey to form a new look halves combo. Foran is nowhere near justifying his huge pay packet but given his injury concerns I can't see another NRL side bidding for his services. The Dogs may have to look to Foran and Cogger but I'd be looking at Elgey who looks on his way out of the Titans.
Silva Havili: Michael Lichaa is on too much money to be playing reserve grade but just hasn't provided the Dogs with what they need at hooker. I'd be looking to move Lichaa on and look to Havili to replace him. He has done a wonderful job filling in for the injured Josh Hodgson but will revert back to a bit part player with the Englishman's return. I'd be putting the feelers out, tonight.
Corey Oates: The Dogs will lose Greg Eastwood and likely Aaron Woods from their forward pack. Corey Oates has made no secret of his desire to play in the second row. Join the dots and the Dogs may look to the Broncos big man. He'd probably command a pretty penny but I'd rather have Oates in at 400k than other options.
Re-Sign Rhyse Martin: No brainer. He won't break the bank and he's a big minute back rower. Re-sign him to a multi-year deal as soon as possible. He and RFT can join Jackson as the back row for the future. That's a pretty handy back row.
Robert Jennings: With both Morris twins reportedly on their way to England the Dogs need a speedy outside back with first grade experience. Why not the man in red hot form for the red hot Rabbits? Another bargain buy.
Edrick Lee: Another off-contract outside back in supreme form. The Dogs need at least one winger. Lee may struggle to get in the Sharks' side with Valentine Holmes and Sione Katoa on the payroll. He would walk into the Dogs run on side.
Of course there is a degree of fantasy booking in the above but the Dogs certainly can turn it around to improve both their side and salary cap position with some smart work in the transfer market. Whether or not Belmore is an attractive option right now is another question, but as shown by the Tigers and Warriors, a good off-season can completely turn a club's fortunes around.