SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MAY 09: Nick Cotric of the Bulldogs and his team mates looks dejected after a try during the round nine NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Canterbury Bulldogs at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, on May 09, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Newly-appointed Canterbury football boss Phil Gould has quickly laid down the law for the playing group, stating each member of Trent Barrett’s squad has an impression to make in the back-end of this season.
Gould joins the Belmore club after a short tenure with the Warriors, returning to the Bulldogs int the midst of a list overhaul.
With 13 players currently off-contract, Barrett is expected to not only continue his busy recruitment drive, but to begin a cut-throat culling this off-season.
The Bulldogs are currently the cellar-dwellers of the league, anchored to last place on the ladder with two wins from 17 games.
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 10: Bulldogs players look dejected after conceding a try during the round five NRL match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Melbourne Storm at Stadium Australia, on April 10, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
The poor campaign has seen a call for a number of high-profile players to be shown the door at season’s end.
However, following Gould’s arrival, the former Bulldogs player and coach has stated each individual will be handed a “clean slate”, and will need to show their worth to the club from here-on-out.
“I spoke to them by Zoom last night for the first time in camp up there in Queensland, just a short conversation to say, ‘Hello, I’m here, if there’s anything you need feel free to call’,” Gould said, per Fox Sports.
“And [I was] virtually saying, ‘Look, I’m wiping the slate clean with all of you, you’ve got a clean slate with me, you’ve got the last period of the competition to still make a statement about yourself, both as an individual and a team, and whether or not you want to be a part of the Bulldogs in the future’.
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MAY 18: Former Penrith Panthers General Manager of Football Phil Gould in the mounting yard to watch his horse Jailbreak compete in race 1 during Sydney Racing at Rosehill Gardens on May 18, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Evans/Getty Images)
“And that’s what football is. It’s train hard, play hard, never give up and show your consistent performance.
“I said: ‘Whatever’s happened up until now doesn’t interest me; I just want to see what you can do from this point on’. I want to see if we can get some sort of reaction from players that might on the fringe. I said, ‘Whatever stage your career is in at the moment – doesn’t matter how old you are or how many games you’ve played or where you think you’re posted – tell me why a good finish to the season would benefit you at this stage’.”
Renouf Atoni, Dean Britt, Christian Crichton, Will Hopoate, Paul Karaitiana, Sione Katoa, Lachlan Lewis, Dylan Napa, Ofahiki Ogden, Chris Patolo, Kurt Picken, James Roumanos and Chris Smith are all unsigned past this season.
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – MARCH 31: Dylan Napa of the Bulldogs warms up during the round three NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the Canterbury Bulldogs at Campbelltown Stadium on March 31, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
Add new recruit Kyle Flanagan to the list of likely exits, with the former Shark and Roosters playmaker currently being shopped to the Super League.
Atoni is also reported to be nearing a two-year deal to join the Roosters, while Lewis, Hopoate and Napa are in doubt to receive a new deal past 2021.
The Bulldogs struggles will soon be buoyed by the impending arrivals of Josh Addo-Carr (Storm), Matt Burton (Panthers), Tevita Pangai Junior (Broncos), Matt Dufty (Dragons) and Brent Naden (Panthers) from 2022, while utility Nick Meaney will depart the club for Melbourne.