The Canterbury Bulldogs are on the road for the next fortnight.
After a winless start to the 2021 season and a frightfully poor minus 140 point for-and-against differential, the two weeks ahead provide Trent Barrett's squad with the opportunity to open their account; firstly in Townsville against the Cowboys in Round 6 and then back in Sydney against the Sharks the following weekend.
Neither match looks likely for the Dogs based on the form they have shown over the opening five rounds. Cronulla have chalked up two wins to this point, despite a caretaker coach now having relieved John Morris of his duties and the Cowboys held on for their first win of the season against a resurgent second half Wests Tigers last Sunday.
It is well within the realms of possibility that Canterbury will return to Stadium Australia on May 1st with a 0-7 record and a tough opponent standing before them in the shape of the Parramatta Eels.
Even if the blue and whites are able to pinch a win in the next two weeks, a 1-6 record will not be an attractive incentive for their fan base to find the will and fortitude to venture out to Homebush.
Yet genuine Canterbury fans should be there in droves.
Just 5,104 fans made the Round 5 trip to the same venue when the powerful Storm headed north and demolished the Bulldogs 52-18. Some post match coverage attempted to spin positivity behind Canterbury finally registering on the scoreboard after a trio of zeroes in the points column from rounds two to four.
However, the actual reality was the same as it has been for the past three seasons and for the remainder of what looks like being another long and courage requiring campaign. The Bulldogs are far from a semi-final team and well off the pace set by the competition front runners.
Some might ask what possible reason I have discovered to suggest that fans of the Belmore based club should be lining up at the gates and flocking to watch their team as soon as they possibly can.
In essence, it is simple.
The Bulldogs were built on the back of working class, hard nosed and resilient men and women that lived in the Canterbury-Bankstown area. The suburbs of Lakemba, Bankstown, Belmore, Campsie and Wiley Park still reek of the same today; with their residents loving and living life despite the challenges facing hard working Australians in an increasingly financially imbalanced society.
Canterbury entered the competition just prior to the second world war and won it three years later. However, after its 1942 and second premiership triumph, the club was to endure a long and sustained period of disappointment until the 1980's.
The six J.J Giltinan Shields held aloft since formed much animosity in opposition fans, as the Bulldogs became the club that was always there or thereabouts; sniffing around come semi-final time.
No matter the success or failure, the fans came, knowing full well that Canterbury would always produce the grit and fortitude associated with the 'Dogs of War' reputation that the team had developed during that time.
Canterbury became the club that most opposition fans loved to hate; almost but not quite as much as Manly-Warringah.
In recent years all of the above has become nothing but a distant memory, with board room strife, salary-cap blunders and a weakened and at times un-competitive roster bringing many Bulldog fans to a state of confusion and disenfranchisement.
Yet with a fresh and younger Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, a new and hungry coach and a squad still months and potentially a year or two away from reaching its potential, all the signs point towards a Bulldog resurgence.
There is no doubt it will happen and true fans of the blue and white will ride out the dark moments in the knowledge that no matter how bad things get or seem, a return to glory is assured.
Being at the ground as the new breed slowly works its way back to respectability and triumph is a sign of loyalty and a nod to the greats of the club.
Those greats include two sets of brothers named Mortimer and Hughes, the greatest Bulldog fullback Les Johns and modern forward greats such as Steve Folkes, David Gillespie and Steve Price.
Memories of Dr George Peponis, former head coach Chris Anderson and a short Lebanese winger who became the highest scoring NRL player at the time of his retirement should also have the Canterbury faithful bursting at the seams to snare a seat at upcoming fixtures.
Should any Canterbury member or fan still be in doubt, memories of the greatest ever Bulldog Terry Lamb, leading the team to premiership success in 1995 would no doubt tip them over the edge.
The club may not be where it wants to be right now, however the history cited above is precisely the reason for which fans should be turning up and supporting the current squad.
Such history is the foundation upon what clubs are built and the bad times only make the good ones feel so much sweeter when they finally arrive.
Canterbury's challenge is to find those good times as quickly as they possibly can.