Michael Lichaa in action against the Rabbitohs.

Despite coaching dramas, player movement and salary cap hurdles, arguably the biggest issue for the Bulldogs in 2017 was their stuttering attack. 

While premierships are generally won on the back of staunch defence, the ability to score points under pressure is what separates the good teams from the chasing pack; last season it was an area Canterbury failed miserably in.

The blue and white brigade managed a paltry 360 points last season – an average of 15 points per game – while they were also ranked last in line breaks (77) and try assists (44). 

Perhaps the most startling statistic was their leading point-scorer, Kerrod Holland (80), was outscored by three Storm players (Cameron Smith, Suliasi Vunivalu and Josh Addo-Carr). 

While they were defensively sound, new Bulldogs coach Dean Pay is hopeful new recruits Kieran Foran, Aaron Woods and Nu Brown can turn things around with the club set to adopt a less structured approach next season. 

"I've got my own ideas on how we're going to attack," the rookie coach told NRL360.

"I thought the boys defended pretty well last year. They were right up the top with their defence, but a lot of the [issues] were built around the attack. 

"We've got a lot of new players coming - we've got Kieran coming, we've got Aaron Woods coming, we've got Nu Brown coming - and we might have a couple of positional changes.

"We'll get into pre-season and make sure we work out how best we can use our players, and we want to make sure we promote that they play what's in front of them a fair bit. We want to make sure that they're taking their opportunities when they arise."

While he's only played 26 NRL matches in two seasons, Foran looms as the man most likely to turn their fortunes around if he can rediscover the sort of form that had him once touted as the best five-eighth in the game.

The Kiwis star will miss the upcoming World Cup in a bid to be fully fit come Round 1 next year, and Pay said Foran is tracking well on and off the field.

"He's been in and around the club a fair bit. He's into his rehab and his physio all the time," he said of Foran, whose ability to straighten things up in attack could be key next year. 

"I've spoken to him quite a number of times and he's going really well. He's looking forward to just getting back into football and getting his body right. He hasn't had a decent season for quite a while but he's hell-bent on playing really well next year." 

Another man keen to impress his new boss will be Michael Lichaa.

The dynamic No.9 was handcuffed at times by former coach Des Hasler who instructed him to pass off the ground rather than cut loose around the ruck with his running game.

 


Lichaa and Pay worked together in the Junior Blues system, and the incoming Bulldogs coach was quick to re-sign the talented hooker who will be encouraged to run the ball as much as possible next season.

"I've worked with him through the junior sort of years, but as he's gotten older I've worked with him a fair bit. I was very keen for him to stay," Pay said of Lichaa who returned to his running best in the final few rounds of the 2017 campaign.

"How we set up our attack and what he does next year, it'll be [sorted out] during the pre-season. We'll be telling him to run the ball as much as he can because that's what he's good at. Close to the line he's scored some tries in the past where some people can't so he's got a talent and we need to bring it out in him."