Canterbury plan to still be active in a rapidly shifting player market beyond their interest in Paul Vaughan, as Trent Barrett dismissed concerns over Tevita Pangai jnr's off-field issues and Kyle Flanagan's future.
The Bulldogs "still have a fair few spots" open in their 2022 roster after Pangai's signing on a lucrative three-year deal was confirmed on Wednesday, via an expected short-term Panthers stint for the rest of this season.
Both Barrett and Canterbury chairman John Khoury are confident Pangai's past behaviour – which led Brisbane to place him on a 12-month probation for multiple biosecurity and contract breaches last season – won't resurface when he arrives at Belmore from November 1.
The club is continuing talks with Vaughan as well and seeking advice from the NRL on whether the sacked Dragons prop's eight-game suspension could be served in part this season if he is signed before August 2.
Even after a busy week that has included Pangai's signing and new deals for wingers Jayden Okunbor and Tui Katoa, the Bulldogs still have at least nine top 30 spots available for 2022.
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One of those slots will be kept open for highly rated teenage centre Paul Alamoti – the Bulldogs tyro who made headlines earlier this year when he caught Nick Politis's eye – when his new two-year deal rolls him into the NRL squad.
It's a pointer to the club's promise to revamp its junior pathways and development under new football manager Phil Gould, who told Canterbury's current squad via zoom this week that they have the chance to "make a statement about whether or not you want to be a part of the Bulldogs in the future".
At the top end of Canterbury's rebuild sits Pangai, who comes with question marks over his off-field behaviour and on-field consistency, but undoubted potential to help drive them into finals contention.
Speaking to NRL.com after Pangai's exit from Brisbane was finalised, Khoury and the club are confident the shift south and a new family arrival will keep their star signing on the straight and narrow.
"Tevita's recently married, settled down and he's got a baby on the way," Khoury said.
"He's coming to a club where we're setting a new standard for ourselves on and off the field.
"With Steve Hansen [ex-All Blacks coach and current Bulldogs consultant], Phil Gould and the footy committee we've got and the culture we're building at the club, he's coming into a good system.
"We're confident he'll grow with that system and with that club. Gus is a big part of that, he'll lead that in the footy department."
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Barrett hailed Pangai's "x-factor" on Thursday and when questioned on the 25-year-old's character added: "If you look at the issues he has had they're only minor ones.
"There's nothing too major there. We've had some really good chats with Tevita, we're really comfortable we're bringing up not only a really good player but a good bloke as well."
He insisted also that Flanagan will remain in blue and white after reports surfaced in England overnight that the 22-year-old had been shopped to Super League clubs.
NRL.com has been told more than one English outfit has asked Canterbury whether Flanagan could be available considering Matt Burton and Jake Averillo shape as a likely halves pairing next year, though Barrett dismissed the suggestion of an early exit.
"Kyle's contracted here for two more years and he'll be given every opportunity to improve himself as a player and make our team," Barrett said.
"I'm not sure where that one came from."
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Speaking ahead of Sunday's clash with Cronulla, Barrett said the Bulldogs will "take a breath for a while" but will "still be in the market".
In the same vein that has seen Burton, Josh Addo-Carr and Brent Naden signed well in advance of their 2022 arrivals at Canterbury, longer-term recruiting shapes as a key element for Gould in conjunction with junior development.
Acknowledging the Bulldogs' traditional catchment area pales in comparison to Gould's previous stomping ground at Penrith, Khoury pointed to the success of the Roosters and Melbourne in working beyond their own smaller talent pools to dominate across multiple generations.
"We'll look at where we can shore up our roster further of course, but our decisions are also beyond 2022, we're looking at '23 and '24 and into the future," Khoury said.
"The big part of that is investing in our young blokes and our pathways, the junior league.
"It's where we want to take the club and it's a big part of Gus's plans, developing our junior system.
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"Obviously we've got a different base to clubs like Penrith and Parramatta, we don't have the size of them.
"So you do look at how teams like Melbourne and the Roosters, they don't have massive catchments so they've looked elsewhere and invested in junior development in a different way, looking at other areas and putting time and effort into their young talent that keeps the game and their club healthy.
"They've raised the bar and it's up to clubs like us to hopefully meet that benchmark, learn from that and raise the standards across the game."