The Bulldogs have turned to a little-known schoolboy rugby guru to help reinvent their much-maligned attack, with stars Kieran Foran and Michael Lichaa re-learning the game's most basic skills this summer.
Steve James was the least heralded addition to Dean Pay's staff during a restructure last November, but the bespectacled skills coach has been present at most of Canterbury's field sessions at Belmore since.
A one-time consultant to Tim Sheens during his tenure at Wests Tigers and the head of rugby at the prestigious Kings school – stomping ground for Wallabies including Stirling Mortlock, Dean Mumm and Benn Robinson – James has been charged with re-teaching the oldest trick in the book to every player in the Bulldogs' senior and junior systems.
And it all starts with passing a football. Be it thousands of catch-pass drills or struggling around the Belmore turf with soaped-up Steedens, James is breaking down rugby league's most basic function to build the Bulldogs back up from the wrong end of the ladder.
"I wanted to work on my passing this year," Lichaa tells NRL.com.
Bulldogs' new skills development coach
"Everyone thinks its natural, you should be really good at it. But until you sit down and break it down with someone, going over video with them, then you're going back to the absolute basics.
"You can get to the NRL on natural talent, a lot of guys are the best in their age group or they stand out along the way.
"But breaking down the simplest thing like that, Steve can show you things that change one little skill.
Scoring a few more points is what we've identified out of last yearBulldogs hooker Michael Lichaa
"It's not just for me, it's for everyone in our team. Kieran Foran's been playing NRL for 10 years and he's showing him things too. So there's plenty of upside to it.
"We do the wet footy drill, it's rough that one. There's plenty of passing drills and if one your passes is bad he'll show why it was and the next pass you fix it.
"He's spot on with it too so it's been great."
Bulldogs players are talking up an overdue offensive revamp in 2019, with rising playmaker Lachlan Lewis last week describing Pay's tactics as "high-tempo, eyes up, running flat and running fast".
Canterbury's 17.8 points a game last year ranked them 13th in the competition, standard fare in the club's trying times of late.
However, a late-season run of four wins from their final six games of 2018 did show promise, particularly with points flowing in wins over top eight sides Brisbane, the Warriors and St George Illawarra.
With the Bulldogs linked to several gun young hookers including Cronulla's Blayke Brailey, Dragon Reece Robson and Wests Tigers rake Jacob Liddle, Lichaa heads into 2019 "four or five kilos lighter" and free of an Achilles issue that hampered him last year.
Foran: I wasn't performing the way I would've liked
The off-contract No.9 has been through the contract wringer more than once – having been officially farewelled by the club before Pay re-signed him in one of his first acts as head coach – and won't buy into talk around his future.
Lichaa instead is focusing on the shift in attacking strategy and honing his combination with Foran, Lewis and likely first-choice fullback Nick Meaney.
"Getting the ball in our hands and scoring a few more points is what we've identified out of last year," Lichaa says.
"We've added a bit more footy this off-season, we're still getting flogged don't worry, but there's more footy.
"As a playmaker that's exciting of course, opening it up and playing with a bit more freedom, you don't say no to it.
"But we've got to earn that too, and it starts in the trials, which is what everyone's keen for."