Bulldogs chairwoman Lynne Anderson says as hard as it was for the club to farewell the Morris brothers and a host of other players, it is yet to free the organisation from salary cap restraint.
Reflecting on her first season as head of the Belmore club, Anderson had the added distraction of players being photographed in the nude during their 'Mad Monday' drinks. Anderson was tightlipped about the matter and said it would be dealt with by the club and the NRL's Integrity Unit.
Anderson was overseas on Paralympic Games business - her day-time job as CEO of the Australian Paralympic Committee (APC) - when the NRL handed down its $250,000 fine and the Bulldogs made public their individual fines for players.
The Bulldogs are due to respond to the NRL's fine on Thursday.
Meantime, Anderson stands by the forecast she made in May alongside her CEO Andrew Hill, that the Bulldogs won't be clear to chase marquee players until at least 2021.
That is despite a host of higher-profile players being let go in 2018, including Moses Mbye, Aaron Woods, Josh and Brett Morris and Greg Eastwood – the last four all internationals.
"It was a challenging start no doubt, but this job comes with the responsibility to make the tough decisions that are in the best interests of the club. Ultimately, we had to do what was needed to put the club in the best position moving forward," Anderson told NRL.com.
"Pleasingly, this has given some exciting young players a chance in first grade that they have taken well and we will add some exciting talent to that group next year.
"However, we know that 2020 is still a difficult year from a cap position. But what this year has shown us is that we need to be well planned and well informed, as opportunities can open up quickly and we need to be ready to act."
The Bulldogs have used their sparse cash wisely, snaring Panthers duo Corey Harawira-Naera and Christian Crichton, Wests Tigers forward Sauaso Sue, and Knights young guns Nick Meaney and Jack Cogger for 2019.
But Anderson said letting the Morris twins - Josh and Brett - leave the club was a particularly hard pill to swallow.
"Players moving on is always tough, especially when they have been here as long as Josh and to a lesser extent Brett," she said.
"I spoke with their mum on Sunday, and it was emotional. Like all players that are leaving us this year, we wish them well. They have all given a lot to this club, and we are grateful. They will always be Bulldogs who are welcome back to the club at all times.
"Once a Bulldog, always a Bulldog."
But Anderson was less forthright on the possibility of the club already looking at extending coach Dean Pay's contract which runs until the end of next season.
The Bulldogs slumped to equal last with the Eels after round nine and were in 15th place in round 17 before finishing 12th off the back of four wins from their last six matches. It has to be noted the Dogs also lost eight games this year by six points or less.
"We are pleased with the efforts of Dean this year and excited about getting our new look squad together in the off-season," Anderson said.
"In particular we were really pleased with the progress of the group under Dean and look forward to seeing the continued development of this year's squad with the additions next season.
"Dean personally has grown a lot as a coach this year. He has come through this period a more confident coach which speaks volumes for him.
"After a tough year, we are all looking to some breathing space – the boys have earned a break, and we know they will all come back revitalised with an air of excitement about what we might be able to do in 2019."
Reimis Smith, Lachlan Lewis, Rhyse Martin, and Ofihiki Ogden will be fanning that excitement. The last three on that list made their NRL debuts in 2018.
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