Bulldogs’ brutal axe ultimatum for under-fire Pay
Bulldogs coach Dean Pay faces being dethroned on the Queen's Birthday if his players can't conjure a win this weekend.
Influential figures at Canterbury, including large chunks of the 1200 football club members who vote on board elections at AGMs, are becoming agitated after three successive losses to start the year.
Pay is off contract following this season and the pressure on him will significantly increase if the Bulldogs can't beat fellow strugglers St George Illawarra at Bankwest Stadium on Monday.
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Phones were running hot among powerful figures at Canterbury after Sunday's 32-6 loss to Manly at Central Coast Stadium.
While an appetite for change is growing, it is unanimously accepted at Belmore that Pay is coaching an inferior roster.
Canterbury's board would be reluctant to sack Pay mid-season, even if results don't improve. Instead, they would just not re-sign him for next season.
It is understood directors want a final decision on Pay's future no later than round 10.
If the Bulldogs don't beat the Dragons, they will meet reigning premiers the Sydney Roosters the following week facing a 0-5 start to the season and Pay would be firmly in the crosshairs of football club members and fans.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor is under the same pressure as Pay to keep his job, so one of them is going to be under more scrutiny at full-time on Monday afternoon.
Former Sharks premiership-winning coach Shane Flanagan and ex-Bulldogs champion Phil Gould have been mentioned as possible recruits.
Canterbury would need to lobby Peter V'landys for a reduction in Flanagan's NRL-imposed suspension, which doesn't end until after next season.
Gould, who played and coached at Belmore, could be an option as a coaching director.
In one week, Canterbury have drifted from $201 to $301 with the TAB to win the premiership. That puts them rank outsiders alongside Gold Coast in the betting.
It is understood Pay's future has not been formally discussed by the board but chairperson Lynne Anderson and CEO Andrew Hill did not return calls on Monday to clarify the situation.
Pay has been frustrated by the Bulldogs' inability to find suitable players to fill positions at fullback, wing, centre, the halves and hooker.
"It's been a tough few years for Dean," three-time Canterbury premiership winner David Gillespie said.
"Canterbury's roster simply hasn't been able to compete with the top sides. You can't throw all the blame on the coach. I'd give him more time to build the roster.
"Dean is a good coach and I know he works his backside off and deserves success. I hope it comes this year."
Another former Bulldogs champion, Michael Hagan, agreed.
"I always liked how Dean played and I like the way he goes about things," Hagan said.
The liked and respected Pay was signed by the previous board and last year the present board extended his tenure by a season.
Canterbury haven't won a premiership since 1995 and have not reached the finals for the past three seasons.
While fans aren't blaming Pay for previous failures, they are becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of success.
The Bulldogs have some serious money to spend on players for next season and remain in contention to sign Canberra forward John Bateman.
Fellow Englishman Luke Thompson has signed a three-year deal with the club from next year.
The TAB had Canterbury as $1.85 favourites yesterday to beat the Dragons ($1.95).
The Bulldogs will welcome back the experienced Kieran Foran from injury for the vital match but are still reeling from the losses of Jayden Okunbor and Corey Harawira-Naera, who were deregistered in March for off-field misbehaviour.
After Canterbury made just one linebreak against Manly on Sunday, Pay said: "We need to be better next week.
"We're not building any pressure. We all need to be doing a better job than we're doing."
Originally published as Bulldogs' brutal axe ultimatum for under-fire Pay