Do the people spreading this stuff have themselves or their beloved club at heart? You have to wonder.
Canterbury have always been riven with internal politics, but some of the machinations of late prompts one influential figure to offer this: “We’re starting to look like the old Parramatta”.
Stuck in the middle of all this is Pay, who’s off contract at the end of the season and coaching for his professional life.
His side plays the Broncos on Saturday night and while English import Luke Thompson is expected to revel under the NRL’s new ruck rules, the Bulldogs are outsiders. Against the Broncos. Who have lost their last six.
Chair Lynne Anderson has hardly backed Pay publicly and the constant speculation is paralysing.
The criticism of the last board, headed by chairman Ray Dib, was that it never “backed or sacked” coach Des Hasler.
He was re-signed but then endured 18 months of speculation about his future. In the end, the uncertainty cost Hasler, Dib and then-chief executive Raelene Castle their positions.
Now, with the Bulldogs rooted to the bottom of the ladder with just one win, the uncertainty is preventing them from signing a major sponsor and recruiting quality players.
And Pay is the one on the slab.
Is he a first-grade coach? Given the issues around the salary cap, injuries to key players then this year’s sex scandal that led to Jayden Okunbor and Corey Harawira-Naera being deregistered, it’s difficult to judge.
But it’s no secret at Belmore that he’s not getting enough support from above. Some say he’s being set up to fail and that’s why a decision on his contract, either way, hasn’t been forthcoming.
Initially, he had Anderson’s husband, Chris, doing the rounds of the dressing-room after matches, telling players what they were doing wrong before he stood down from the board. The theory about Pay not being surrounded by quality assistant coaches also won’t go away.
And you’ll struggle to find many people at the Bulldogs say Steve Price has had a positive impact since taking over as general manager of football in August last year.
But what’s really hurting Pay is the non-recruitment and botched retention of players.
Consider how the club stuffed up negotiations with favourite son Josh Reynolds.
In desperate need of another experienced playmaker, Pay wanted Reynolds back from the Wests Tigers, if only for the remainder of the year.
It’s not commonly known but there was even talk about a loan deal similar to the one between the Tigers and Storm involving Harry Grant.
Reynolds wanted to come home. He would’ve provided experience, energy and passion. The price tag was only about $300,000.
But the board rejected the idea, preferring to back the squad’s emerging talent and local juniors instead.
Which is fair enough if it’s prepared to play the long game.
It didn’t take long for the youth policy to be abandoned. The Bulldogs are now after Warriors veteran Blake Green, 33, who’s been told by the club’s owner he’s no longer wanted.
Then there’s the contract negotiations with Adam Elliott, who has been the club’s most consistent player over the last three seasons.
He’s off contract, too, and the Bulldogs simply can’t afford to let him go. A smart club would have tabled a big, long-term deal to take away endless conjecture about him leaving.
Instead, the Bulldogs low-balled him. So low that his management is talking to other clubs, which are understandably interested given he’s a NSW Origin player of the future.
Anderson and her board swept to power in February 2018 on the promise of change. They were the “Reform Ticket”, as you might recall, and they triumphed in one of the ugliest football board elections in recent memory.
Anderson promised “nine pillars” as part of her pitch to members. Among them was a promise to introduce “proper governance, process and accountability”, “entrench our Bulldogs culture” and “bring respect back to our club”.
They are platitudes, sure, but they’re also promises that haven’t been met in almost two and a half years.
It will be denied but the board is split and there are rumblings that a plot to overthrow Anderson is imminent.
Meanwhile, Dib and former chairman George Peponis have been sounded out about getting the votes together to hold an extraordinary general meeting to blow the whole thing up and start again.
Understandably, they’re reluctant to get involved. But any new ticket would require a respected figurehead prepared to put politics and power to one side in order to turn the club around.
The next football club elections will be held in February 2022.
How will the Bulldogs look then? Will they have come out the other side of this current malaise and look like the new Parramatta instead of the old?
And will Pay be a part of it?
In six seasons at Belmore, in more than a hundred matches including the 1995 premiership, Pay was one of the Bulldogs’ most ferocious and hard-working forwards.
As one of their own, he deserves better. At the very least, he deserves to know where he stands.
At war with the world
Guess who’s back? Back again? Manly’s back, tell a friend. Guess who’s back? Guess who’s back? Guess who’s back? Guess who’s back? Guess who’s back?
It’s been hard to get those Eminem lyrics out of one’s head this week as the Sea Eagles go to war with the referees, the NRL and sections of the media after prop Addin Fonua-Blake went nuclear at the end of the controversial loss to the Knights.
Indeed, the way Manly coach Des Hasler and captain Daly Cherry-Evans have defended their explosive prop is reminiscent of Bob Fulton and Geoff Toovey in another life.
Beep! Beep! Beep! That’s the cement truck reversing into Brookvale Oval as we speak.
Manly are furious about the leaked referees report in which it is claimed Fonua-Blake abused referee Grant Atkins a second time in the tunnel after Atkins had earlier sent the player from the field for calling him a “f—ing retard”.
The report said: “The player was just outside the Manly dressing-shed where he turned and said to me, ‘Are your f—ing eyes painted on you bunch of spastics?'”
The Sea Eagles have been spinning a different line ever since, leaking video footage that shows Fonua-Blake nowhere near Atkins in the tunnel.
Apart from Atkins’ two touch judges verifying his account of what was said, the images prove nothing.
The obvious question: if Fonua-Blake didn’t say those words to the referee, to whom would he be making such remarks?
Sea Eagles officials? Himself? The universe in general?
Back in the game?
Former NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg has been mostly working on his golf handicap since chairman Peter V’landys showed him the door at League Central.
But, at the age of 49, he’s too young to semi-retire and sit on various boards.
Greenberg has been linked to the new “Super Trust”, which will see the SCG Trust and Venues NSW merge later this year, and those rumours took off when he met with acting NSW Sports Minister Geoff Lee last week.
This column has been told he’s more likely to be in line for the chief executive’s role, which has angered supporters of SCG Trust boss Kerrie Mather, who is highly regarded.
Greenberg is also keen on the vacant Cricket Australia job but its dysfunctional board is months away from even starting the process of finding a new chief executive.
He didn’t want to comment when contacted this week, although it’s no secret he’s extremely close to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Should he get the gig, however, it would be interesting to see him again working with V’landys, who wants four $250m boutique rugby league stadiums built within the next decade after Berejiklian reneged on the $800m redevelopment of ANZ Stadium.
“My little dirty area is very close to the crowd here.” – Channel Nine sideline commentator Brad Fittler at Brookvale Oval on Sunday. We are not touching that one, literally or figuratively.
Winter Olympian Alex “Chumpy” Pullin wasn’t just a very talented athlete, but also one of the nicest you’d meet. He tragically drowned while spearfishing off the Gold Coast earlier this week.
Yet another tennis player, Frances Tiafoe, has tested positive to COVID-19, forcing him from an event in Atlanta. What part of “highly contagious coronavirus that has gripped the planet” is this special group of athletes not getting?
It’s a big weekend for …
Wests Tigers fullback Adam Doueihi, who was pushed out of South Sydney to accommodate Latrell Mitchell and comes up against his old club on Friday night. Revenge is a dish best served with two tries.
It’s an even bigger weekend for …
Victorian teams that have fled their COVID-infected state after the NSW border was shut on Tuesday. Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled elite football teams.
Andrew Webster is Chief Sports Writer of The Sydney Morning Herald.