The Bulldogs board is expected to meet later this week and it’s unlikely Pay will continue at the club beyond this season.
Canterbury are anchored to the bottom of the NRL ladder with just one win in nine matches in 2020 and are almost certain to miss the finals for a fourth straight year, the first time that has happened since 1989-92.
Barrett has helped orchestrate the Panthers’ stunning turnaround this season alongside head coach Ivan Cleary and Cameron Ciraldo, leading the club’s free-wheeling attack which piled on 56 points against the Sharks on Saturday.
But Penrith bosses told the Herald on Sunday night they would fight to keep Barrett at the foot of the mountains, praising his role in turning the club into legitimate premiership contenders this season.
It is unclear whether Barrett would even be interested in the role. Barrett agreed in 2015 to take the Sea Eagles’ top job while still an assistant at Penrith, prompting Cleary to then put him on indefinite “gardening leave”.
Canterbury still have a war chest to spend on players for next season, but have so far failed to land a circuit breaker with so much uncertainty about their head coaching position.
Canberra flyer Nick Cotric has been tabled a lucrative offer to head to Belmore as the Bulldogs chase more strike out wide.
Pay is desperate to work with a beefed-up roster, but is unlikely to get the chance despite receiving the backing of rugby league legend Peter Sterling on Sunday.
“I’d like to think he’s the man for the job,” Sterling told The Footy Show. “They finished 12th and 12th his first two seasons in charge. They’re not well placed at the moment and we know the roster he has is inferior to other clubs.
“What he does deserve is to know the future, whether he will there next year and years beyond because that was recruitment becomes something they can get on with.
“Players are not going to go to Canterbury without knowing who the coach is. The only way you can recruit is based on who is going to be in charge next season. They need to know.”
Pay was only given a one-year extension by the club’s administration last year.
The news for Canterbury only got worse on Sunday after the match review committee slapped centre Reimis Smith with a grade one dangerous contact charge for a cannonball tackle on Brisbane skipper Alex Glenn.
The New Zealand international was distressed as he was helped from the field during the Broncos’ drought-breaking win on Saturday evening.
Smith will miss the Bulldogs’ clash against St George Illawarra next Saturday if he takes the early guilty plea or can’t beat the charge at the judiciary.
Canterbury’s only win so far this season has been against the Dragons, a 22-2 flogging on the Queen’s birthday weekend.
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.