Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs coach Dean Pay has called for patience with star recruits Aaron Woods and Kieran Foran after admitting they were a "work in progress" at the club.
Since moving to Belmore with high expectations, the pair's impact has been overshadowed by the form of Moses Mbye after three rounds of the Telstra Premiership.
Pay's decision to move Mbye to fullback has taken the heat away from Foran's game as the marquee addition continues to return from an injury-riddled pre-season.
"I think all our new players have played well. Can they get better? Of course, they can, but that goes for all our players. We want improvement each week," Pay said.
"[Kieran] has worked hard in the off-season and got himself to a stage now where he's playing 80 minutes and is training each week. It's onwards and upwards for him. He's started to settle into the group.
"It's a work in progress each week. He's feeling better about himself each week and getting used to playing with new teammates. He's improving all the time, that's all I can ask."
Pay defended some criticism of Woods's early-season form and expected the occasion of Good Friday's blockbuster against the South Sydney Rabbitohs to bring the best out in the Bulldogs prop, who will play his 150th NRL match.
Mbye's move to fullback paying off
According to NRL.com Stats, the 27-year-old is averaging 129.7 metres per game – well down on his 161-metre average at the Wests Tigers in 2017.
"[Aaron] is a work in progress as well," Pay said.
"It's not only Woodsy's job, it's the rest of our pack as well. We're bracing for all those guys to play well for South Sydney. We're going to have to be on our game to nullify that."
After Pay was appointed by the Bulldogs in September, the "Dogs of War" culture which brought the club success in the 1980s continues to be mentioned by external sources as the model for the modern-day side.
Pay said the circumstances were different in 2018 despite looking for a more aggressive approach from the squad.
"We want to play an aggressive game of footy every week, there's always that fine line you want to get up to but we need to make sure we keep our heads and not tip over the edge there," Pay said.
"This group is a different group to the '80s and '90s. We've got a lot to work on.
"We experience a bit more pressure [this week]. That's what we play the game for, if you got pressure you must be doing something OK."