Axe hovers over Pay after latest defeat
Should that be the loss that ends Dean Pay's coaching career?
Or was the cliff hanger 20-18 defeat to Cronulla exactly the type of courage and good old fashioned Canterbury spirit that shows why the under siege coach deserves a contract extension?
That's the question the Bulldogs board should be asking themselves ahead of Thursday's anticipated meeting that is likely to decide Pay's coaching future.
Kayo is your ticket to the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership. Every game of every round Live & On-Demand with no-ad breaks during play. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
And whether a coach like, say, Craig Bellamy, or even Wayne Bennett, could get more out of this current Bulldogs squad than what Pay is currently delivering.
While this coaching caper might pay well, sometimes you have to wonder why they'd even want the job.
Because when you walked away from Bankwest on Sunday night you couldn't help but feel sorry for the Bulldogs coach.
For three years Pay has had to put up with a salary cap that has been a disaster not of his making.
Yet with a reported $3 million to spend for next year, Pay might have to hand it over to a new coach.
Asked whether he would like to know one way or another come this week's meeting, Pay appeared at the point where he was ready to accept his fate: "They've got a meeting this week. That's their job. I will keep doing mine."
What can't be disputed is that the players are having a red hot crack to try and keep him in the job.
Last night they really dug deep and gave it everything right up until the final minutes after a length of the field Christian Crichton intercept try set up a thrilling finish.
Unfortunately for Pay it just wasn't enough as the gritty Sharks hung on.
Pay conceded he was proud but the reality is there for all to see.
"We need to buy some real quality players to put around these young blokes who turn up and give 100 per cent each and every week,' Pay said.
"We seen it tonight how much fight they have got in them. And it is difficult. Last week we just weren't good enough (against the Roosters). We played the best team in the competition. We learned our lessons last week and we backed up this week they did a bit better."
One of the highlights of the game came from Bulldogs centre Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, who lined up former Penrith teammate Matt Moylan with a crunching tackle.
"I think I've got a sunken chest now and it would've knocked a few of my hairs out," Sharks fullback Moylan told Fox League afterwards.
In the end it was Cronulla's experience and just that extra touch of class that got them home with Sione Katoa celebrating his first NRL career hat trick in the four-tries-to-three victory.
KATOA'S MAGIC SHOW
With John Morris' job also up for debate in recent weeks, the Sharks at least saved him the scrutiny for a few more days.
"Like I said to the boys, we just couldn't afford to walk out of here tonight without the two points in our back pocket," Morris said.
"It was definitely two desperate clubs scrapping over the two points and I was really proud of the boys."
And the highlight of the night was Katoa's three try effort.
His first was spectacular when he did some aerial acrobatics over the corner post.
But his second, well, that was next level impressive as he latched onto a Shaun Johnson bullet pass that landed at Katoa's toes while he was travelling at full speed and in the wet.
On Fox League, Greg Alexander marvelled: "I don't know if I've ever seen a better pick-up, that's as good as I've ever seen … I gave him no chance."
Morris added: "It was amazing. He is such a great kid. He has worked so hard on his game. I see that at training all the time, he has got beautiful hands.
"In wet and greasy conditions to pick it off his boot laces like that was a big play for us."
Bryson Goodwin also scored in his first match for the Sharks since switching from Souths.
Johnson's effort here was a lot better, even allowing for a late intercept pass gave Crichton his intercept.
In a team that struggles the Bulldogs' ultra-consistent fullback Will Hopoate produced another five-star effort.
Brave and inspirational yet again.
Hoppa copped a massive shot off Jesse Ramien midway through the first half but just minutes later was on hand to score running a wonderful line.
"He is just a consistent footy player," Pay said.
"Jacko (captain Josh Jackson) is the same. They are real leaders of our club."
REF MAKES A STAND
After the midweek warning from Graham Annesley, every player went into this round knowing what to expect.
And referee Adam Gee certainly didn't disappoint as he called 16 six-to-go set restarts and handed out two sin bins.
Neither coach was particularly happy with the some of the calls or the consistency, but it sure made for an exciting match.
CRONULLA 20 (S Katoa 3 B Goodwin tries S Johnson 2 goals) bt CANTERBURY 18 (C Crichton K Foran W Hopoate tries J Averillo 3 goals) at Bankwest Stadium. Referee: Adam Gee.
Originally published as Axe hovers over Pay after latest defeat