James Graham has thrown his support behind his embattled former Canterbury teammates as their horror season enters a race to avoid the wooden spoon.
The Bulldogs now sit equal with last-placed Parramatta on wins but only ahead of the Eels due to bye points, following their sixth loss in seven matches to Graham's St George Illawarra side on Monday.
Players have also had to deal with salary cap issues, which forced Graham out last year and now threaten to do the same to Moses Mbye and Aaron Woods among others.
Graham remains close to the group and even caught up with some players in the weeks leading into Monday's clash.
And while loath to weigh into the cap issues, he offered support to his former clubmates given they've dropped to a 3-11 record for just the second time since 1964.
"Absolutely (we're still close). A lot of them were my teammates for six years. You don't turn it off because you leave," Graham said.
"You've got to give credit to people at Canterbury at the moment because every game they've come out to play and they've been in the battle and the game.
"They've beaten Penrith and were close to beating Penrith again. They went close to beating us. Those two sides are at the front of the league.
"But with how close this sporting competition is, people forget that and don't want to talk about that.
"They want to talk about other stuff and look for reasons and excuses, whatever it may be. They don't want to say it's a tough sport to play."
The Bulldogs' six recent losses have all come by eight points or less, and they still maintain the second best defensive record of any team outside of the top eight.
However their hopes of making the top eight are all but over, meaning they're set to sit out consecutive finals series for just the second time since 1989 and 1990.
"It's like a broken record. We'll sit here every week and say the effort is great and it is," Mbye said this week.
"You can't doubt our effort. It is really good and we are ripping in for each other and working hard. We are not letting teams get away with many games.
"But the competition is so close these days."