NRL: Dean Pay has been treated unfairly

I feel sorry for Dean Pay. When he took over as head coach of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in 2018, he inherited a horrible roster and a badly mismanaged salary cap in which he’s had no flexibility to recruit quality players during his tenure.

Yes, it is a results driven business and it is inevitable that Pay will miss the finals for the third straight season. But that is hardly his fault and sacking him now won’t fix anything.

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Would appointing an assistant to take over for the remainder of 2020 produce results or improve the team’s performances? Probably not. If it happens, I could see the club going further backwards this season.  

The Bulldogs received plenty of admiration during the backend of the 2019 season when they won five of their last six games against sides with much stronger playing rosters. Pay had instilled the old ‘Dogs of War’ mentality and his side was pushing for a miracle top eight finish – only to fall short by two wins after spending most of the season at the bottom of the ladder.

There was enough there to suggest Pay can coach. He’s done as well as anyone could in developing the young players he has, but he simply hasn’t got enough first-grade quality talent to be consistently competitive.    

Prior to the start of this season, Pay lost Corey Harawira-Naera, arguably his best player, as well as talented young winger Jayden Okunbor when they were sacked for their involvement in the schoolgirl sex scandal in Port Macquarie.

Since 2018, the club has lost representative players Brett and Josh Morris, James Graham and Aaron Woods – all squeezed out because of their salary cap debacle.

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Star five-eighth Kieran Foran, who was signed to a hefty contract by previous coach Des Hasler for a reported $1.2 million per season has spent more time on the injury shelf than on the field.

From a salary cap perspective, it is difficult to fathom that the money spent on the current Bulldogs roster is the same amount the Roosters, Eels, Raiders and Storm have spent on their rosters. Dean Pay isn’t responsible for the overpaid players, blackened contracts and money paid out to players no longer at the club.

The reality is, he would had to have been a miracle worker to achieve success with the roster he was given.

The Bulldogs are expected to have a $3 million war chest to spend for 2021, after Dean Pay’s current contract expires.

There have also been several reports recently in regards to club power brokers who are keen on luring either Wayne Bennett or Craig Bellamy to coach the club from 2021, and in all honesty, they are the only two coach’s worth replacing Pay if the club can successfully sign one of them.

If not, then Pay should be re-signed and be given free rein to re-build the roster he wants. Then, and only then, his coaching can be fairly critiqued.

A decision will need to be made quickly though, as potential recruits will he hesitant in signing with the club until they know who the coach is going to be from 2021 onwards.

If Pay remains at the club and is able to build a strong roster, I believe he is the right man to lead the Bulldogs back to the finals.

Featured Image: Dean Pay on NRL 360 (Source: Fox Sports)

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