How Dogs got their bark back
It is both the driving force that has pulled Canterbury-Bankstown back from the brink, and the only place two-time premiership-winning coach Des Hasler knows where to coach from.
But more importantly, five-eighth Josh Reynolds says, it's how he and the rest of his former fumbling and bumbling teammates have responded to being written off that mattered most.
Just two wins in their final eight regular games had the Bulldogs painted as a spent force, with Hasler himself repeating what others had pre-empted long before the Finals series began.
"Their (mindset will be to bounce back so it will be another tough road," he said after their upset win in Melbourne.
"And we will just continue to make up the numbers."
It was a damning edict he probably had plastered across all of Belmore ever since their late-season plummet sunk to a nadir on the Gold Coast in their final game of the year.
And the team certainly got the message, reeling off wins against perennial heavyweights Melbourne and Manly in the past fortnight to set up a grand final qualifier against Penrith on Saturday night.
"I think that [criticism is] what's sparked us off, really. I know for myself, I went through that period and some things were said. I took them on board but I didn't shy away from them because I take in everyone's opinion," Reynolds said.
"But it's how you use it. I wanted to come back and use it in the right way. I think the boys done the same as well, when people wrote us off last week against Melbourne and probably the same today.
"With our backs against the wall, that's when we come out and play our best footy. It shows you what kind of team we are. Once again, it wasn't a classy win from us [on Saturday night], but I think we might've dug a bit deeper in the end there."
For Reynolds, his back hit the wall a lot earlier than the rest of his teammates.
Since helping NSW break their Origin drought in Game II, the fourth-year pro has been put on report three times, been sent to the sin bin once, and even bizarrely passed the ball to an opposition player intentionally, leading to a deluge of criticism on social media.
"You always cop a bit of a spray but you know, that's how it is. If you want to have those things the good and the bad, they come and you got to take both sides in," he said.
But a heart-to-heart with Hasler helped settle him down.
"[Des] said to me, don't change what you do. Just try and be a little bit smarter at times. And that's probably great advice. That's the gist," Reynolds said.
"The way I play sometimes, some things might come off the wrong way. The best words he ever said to me were, 'you might be down, but it's how you bounce back'.
"And I took that on board a lot because two to three weeks ago, people were saying to rub me out of the game.
"But I wanted to come back and show people through my footy that I still belong here. I do this because I love it. I don't go out on the field to harm anyone. It's just because I want to win so bad. Sometimes that's what happens.
"And you see it in players all the time. A couple of the same things happened the week after, blokes done the same thing and it's just how the game goes sometimes. But I'm glad to be back out here, doing what I love. I'm in a good place. I'm really enjoying it."