The NRL community has rallied around Dean Pay after he quit his job as Canterbury head coach on Tuesday.
After just one win for the season, the off-contract coach was in the midst of a disastrous campaign for the Bulldogs who are on a collision course with the wooden spoon.
His decision to walk away after eight losses in nine games ends months of uncertainty surrounding his position at the club.
Handed arguably the weakest roster in the NRL when he replaced Des Hasler after the 2017 season, Pay has led the Bulldogs to just 19 wins in 57 matches.
Assistant coach Steve Georgallis will take the reins as caretaker for the rest of 2020, while Trent Barrett is widely considered the frontrunner to succeed Pay on a permanent basis.
NRL reporter Danny Weidler said Pay has been made the “fall guy”.
“I know that Dean was increasingly frustrated with the way he was being treated by the Bulldogs club,” he said on Speaking on Big Sports Breakfast.
“He was brought in as a former club great to help turn the club around but looks to me that he’s been made to be the fall guy and he’s been treated with incredible disrespect.
“He never really had a chance with the roster he was given. The final straw was when he tried to recruit Josh Reynolds on minimal money and was not given the chance.”
Veteran NRL reporter Phil Rothfield said it was time for the Bulldogs to make a change, but felt not many coaches could have done better with a similar roster.
I think the @NRL_Bulldogs had to make a change but still feel desperately sorry for Dean Pay. I’m don’t think too many coaches could have done much better with the roster he inherited. Trent Barrett good choice. Can coach.— BUZZ ROTHFIELD (@BuzzRothfield) July 13, 2020
The sentiment was widely echoed within the NRL community with many pointing to salary cap issues as a major reason Pay struggled.
I think the dogs disrespected Dean Pay. They used him to get though a period were they had to clear a back ended roster. They paid him poorly and they gave him a rubbish team with no support and now they are flicking him. https://t.co/mZsksesQiF— RooStár 🏆🏆 (@IMAROOSTAR) July 13, 2020
I have no doubt Dean Pay put everything into coaching the Dogs, and I know the roster he inherited with salary cap constraints is awful, but they are just going backwards. He doesn’t have any attraction for big name players to come over, so it’s time to move on. #thanksDean— Bryan Parnell (@BryParnell) July 13, 2020
Forget salary cap. The Bulldogs sacked Des Hasler because some said he didn't understand the Belmore culture. Club legend Dean Pay appointed. Win rate of 33% in 2.5 seasons. Now Pay is gone and will be replaced by a former Dragon/Shark... Trent Barrett!!! Madness. #NRL— James Willis (@JamesWillis873) July 13, 2020
Pay couldn’t turn Bulldogs season around
The club legend has coached the Bulldogs since the start of 2018, but with salary cap issues and an unbalanced roster they have failed to make the finals.
It's believed Pay was given between eight to 10 weeks to prove he could turn the team around before earning a contract extension, but with just one win from nine games, the conclusion appeared inevitable.
Saturday's 26-8 loss to Brisbane was the tipping point, and looks to be his final game in charge.
It comes as the Bulldogs sound out former Manly coach Barrett to take over as head coach from 2021.
Barrett, who coached the Sea Eagles for three seasons before he was replaced at the end of 2018, is an assistant at Penrith.
The former Test and NSW Origin five-eighth has been credited for turning around the team's attack in 2020, with the Panthers now sitting second on the NRL ladder.