Mbye and Bulldogs look to 2018
Bulldogs utility Moses Mbye admits the side will likely have one eye on early preparation for next season and make it a mission to ruin other's clubs chances of playing finals football in the final five weeks of the competition as their own season came to an end after their 16-8 loss to Penrith on Thursday night.
The final nail in the coffin struck the Belmore outfit in a dour affair against a Panthers line-up that just did enough to get over the line.
Canterbury's talk of an improved attack under Des Hasler in the past 18 months has fallen well short in 2017, while their eight points at the foot of the mountains with their season on the line was less than impressive.
"It becomes a long few weeks now and it's a shame but that's footy and we can't throw our toys out of the cot - you've just got to get on with it and look forward to next week," Mbye said.
"You can't fault the effort and while it is getting repetitive saying that, it's the honest truth. I think we still have to focus on what we're doing this year and it probably sounds bad but we can spoil some parties and we've got to focus on improving as individuals and instilling a bit of pride.
"We just want to put together a few good performances and display what we can do but unfortunately we've left it too late."
It is all new territory for most of the Bulldogs side after five consecutive seasons.
And in particularly for coach Des Hasler.
The premiership-winning coach will miss the finals for the first time since 2004 after a long tenure with Manly – coincidently when the Bulldogs last lifted the trophy.
With Hasler's future reportedly up in the air, Mbye understands the fans frustrations but insisted the side would learn from a season of disappointment.
"Being at such a strong club with rich history, [the expectation] is only fair to be expected and that's appreciated. The boys know that and it's unfortunate it's come to an end so early but that's the rollercoaster rugby league," he said.
"You see the greatest of greats across all sports from all codes fall from the top all the time. It's not about kicking stones but getting out there next season and proving to everyone and ourselves what we're about."
With the departure of Josh Reynolds and Sam Kasiano next season as well as the uncertain futures of skipper James Graham and hooker Michael Lichaa, the squad will turn to individual drive for the final five rounds.
NSW State of Origin representatives David Klemmer and Josh Jackson will eye off a World Cup spot in the Australian squad, while Graham (England), Kasiano (Samoa) and Marcelo Montoya (Fiji) are all set to feature in the tournament in November.
"Obviously with the departure of Josh and a few blokes coming in it's hard to set in stone what those combinations are going to be," Mbye said.
"But in saying that there are a few areas we can work on the next couple of weeks to take into next season."
The 23-year-old has endured a rollercoaster season of his own after shifting into the No.9 jersey on the back of widespread pressure from supporters and media around the side's attack around the ruck.
While Mbye admitted the change has helped his development, he wasn't sure what was ahead in 2018 with Sharks recruit Nu Brown and marquee signing Kieran Foran set to join the club.
"I haven't had that conversation yet and it's probably a bit early but I'm enjoying my time there and it's been a good transition for the team and worked effectively," Mbye said.
"Even when I was in negotiations to re-sign with the club the position I was going to play was up in the air so it is still sort of panning out that way.
"I'm not foreign to the position and I'm enjoying it. It's given me some fresh air at the backend of the season when it's been tough to get up for knowing the finals are out of reach.
"I still think it's a good headache for Des to have in working out who's going to play in the halves."
Meanwhile, Hasler admitted that the season was all but over.
"It's going to be hard from here," he said.
"We'll have to let it settle, strip it back and find the reasons why.
"I thought we had opportunities tonight but just couldn't finish it.
"They were always going to have a crack and the effort has always been there."
Hasler was then asked about his own emotions and if he was worried about his future at the club.
"No. What's the point in worrying," he replied.
"You can only really play what's in front. Why, should I be worried? I tend not to listen [to media]."