Dean Pay wields the axe.
Dean Pay wields the axe.

Bulldogs bloodletting begins as Pay wields axe

DESPERATE Canterbury coach Dean Pay will wield the selection axe on his underperforming side in an attempt to kickstart their NRL season.

After two thrashings, including a 36-16 defeat to bitter rivals Parramatta, Pay is set to make at least four changes to his line-up for Sunday's crucial clash against ladder leaders the Wests Tigers.

After sticking solid with his team for the opening two weeks, Pay will shake things up, including:

● Goal-kicking forward Rhyse Martin will be recalled into the starting side;

● Outside backs Christian Crichton and Marcelo Montoya and forward Danny Fualalo will be dropped;

● Nick Meaney will make his club debut at fullback; and

● Will Hopoate will shift from the No.1 position to the centres.

Martin, who was viewed as a shining light in an otherwise dire 2018, was demoted to the Canterbury Cup to start the season but his omission for two consecutive weeks raised eyebrows.

There had been some concerns over Martin's fitness and his defence but two commendable performances in the lower grades has earned him a recall.

Dean Pay is fighting to keep his job and needs results fast. Picture: AAP
Dean Pay is fighting to keep his job and needs results fast. Picture: AAP

The back-rower will return on an edge in place of Raymond Faitala-Mariner who has been dumped to the reserves.

Nick Meaney will make his Bulldogs debut at fullback with Will Hopoate shifting to centre at the expense of Marcelo Montoya.

Winger Jayden Okunbor is in line to make his NRL debut. The Milperra Colts junior is expected to replace new recruit Christian Crichton on the left edge.

Forward Ofahiki Ogden, who was squeezed out the top side following the recruitment of Dylan Napa, Sauaso Sue and Corey Harawira-Naera, will be promoted into the top 17 from Canterbury Cup. He is set to replace Danny Fualalo on the bench.

Jeremy Marshall-King will retain his starting spot at hooker ahead of Michael Lichaa, who will again start on the bench this week.

Pay's hand has been forced after his side were blown off the park two weeks in a row by the New Zealand Warriors and the Parramatta Eels. They have conceded 76 points over the course of their two losses to record what has been their worst start to a season in almost 40 years.

Raymond Faitala-Mariner will pay the price for the Bulldogs’ poor form.
Raymond Faitala-Mariner will pay the price for the Bulldogs’ poor form.

The wholesale changes come amid speculation that Pay is on borrowed time at Belmore.

Pay is off-contract at the end of this season and back in February, the club initiated renegotiations.

It's understood even though the club has supported him publicly, his immediate future is under consideration with speculation the club is discussing round 10 as Pay's deadline to turn his side's fortunes around or face an early departure from Belmore.