Canterbury have boldly backed Dean Pay's ongoing rebuild at Belmore by extending his contract by another 12 months.
Due to come off contract at the end 2019, Pay's future has been the subject of increased scrutiny as a result of two heavy losses to start the season, following on from a 12th-placed finish in his first season as coach.
The club announced the one-year extension on Friday afternoon, giving Pay much-needed breathing room and a chance to shape a roster of his own making, having taken over from Des Hasler with the Bulldogs salary cap severely hampered by back-ended deals signed off by his predecessor.
Bulldogs CEO Andrew Hill said Pay's surprise extension is intended to create stability around a playing group that has farewelled David Klemmer, Moses Mbye, Aaron Woods and Morris brothers Josh and Brett last year.
"The Bulldogs are a club that absolutely believes in supporting our people to be the best they can be," Hill said.
"We believe it is important to give Dean the backing to lead our young squad forward. Our role as a club is to provide Dean with the best possible environment to succeed.
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"By extending his contract we are showing the faith in him that is a crucial part of that process.
"…The NRL is generally not a patient sport, but that said, some things simply take time. Giving a coach only 12 months with an inherited squad and several challenges was not an option for the current board and management.
"We support our people and believe in Dean's ability and want to provide him with the best environment to succeed."
Pay thanked the Bulldogs board for the show of faith, vowing to return the club to the glory days - Canterbury have claimed six premierships since 1980.
"We have a young squad that has great potential and anything we achieve in the future will be based on the simple principles of hard work and togetherness," Pay said.
"This is a proud club with an incredibly passionate supporter base and I want us to play the type of football that brings them the success that they deserve."
Chairwoman Lynne Anderson insisted the board's decision to extend Pay's deal was "unanimous", and also spoke of the 49-year-old inheriting "a squad and a salary cap situation that were not of his making, and we believe it would be unfair to judge him on that".
Anderson and Hill have previously declared it would take until 2021 for Canterbury to re-enter the player market meaningfully, having vowed to stop paying players to turn out for other rivals.
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NRL.com understands the Bulldogs are still paying a portion of the salaries for Mbye, Klemmer and Woods at Wests Tigers, Newcastle and Cronulla respectively.
But the club has begun to reshape its roster with Pay at the helm, signing Queensland Origin prop Dylan Napa, rising Kiwi back-rower Corey Harawira-Naerea and the likes of Nick Meaney, Christian Crichton and Sauaso Sue for this season.
Pay has swung the selection axe following heavy losses to the Warriors and Eels to start 2019, making five changes for Sunday's clash with the Tigers.