Pay says Bulldogs' performance 'not good enough'
The words "not good enough" featured strongly and frequently in Canterbury coach Dean Pay's post-mortem of the 32-10 loss to the Gold Coast Titans at Belmore Sportsground on Saturday.
But perhaps the fact only 6874 turned up at the Bulldogs' spiritual home is a reinforcement of Pay's message: the club and its new administration has to win back disaffected fans.
That is usually done by playing stylish or striking football to win games. But the Titans was the Bulldogs' 11th loss this season.
Not even the departure of Moses Mbye from the club he played a grand final with in 2014 could inspire the Bulldogs to try to grab a win and restore some pride.
"Not good enough, just not good enough. We were never in the contest," Pay said on Saturday.
"Physically we just weren't good enough. It was the way they turned up, the way they trained during the week ... I thought one of these [big losses] was coming," he added, after the Bulldogs have lost seven games this year by six points or less.
"We've been competitive when at our best but what we dished up today just wasn't good enough. I feel sorry for our fans and supporters."
Pay said he noticed his players were down on talk and energy at training this week. Now with the representative round bye coming next weekend, he is contemplating how to refresh his squad.
He could not put his finger on why round 15 produced their worst match of 2018.
"If I knew I'd fix it," Pay said. "We've been in games and just not been able to get across the line, but some of those boys' games today just weren't good enough."
Skipper Josh Jackson weighed in that the players were indeed the ones to blame as Pay and his coaching staff were working hard.
"The five-day turnaround didn't help but that's just nit-picking," Jackson said.
"What we produced tonight wasn't good enough. It was a massive occasion for us coming back here to Belmore – a lot of history here; a lot of emotion – and we were extremely poor.
"It's been a frustrating year for us but we're professionals – that's the way it goes sometimes. We've got to be better than what we produced tonight."
Pay did admit the salary cap constraints which is not allowing the Bulldogs to retain players like Mbye, the Morris twins Brett and Josh, and other leading players like Greg Eastwood, must be affecting the mood around the club.
"It's got to have some effect but what Jacko said is right – we're professionals," he said, adding he was not angry with the playing group's response.
"I'm more disappointed with what we dished up for our supporters. This club is going through a huge change at the moment.
"We'll miss [Mbye] but every decision we've made so far is in the club's best interest. And if that's moving on [for Moses] then that’s the best interest at the moment," Pay said.
"We're in a tough position and we have to make some tough decisions if we're going to turn the club around and start to go forward again."