As judgement day looms large on the horizon for the beleaguered Dogs, the fans attitude has turned from one of outrage and shock to one of anger and defiance, the latter I cannot bring myself to understand.
They seem to be missing the point here or is it just me? It?s not so much the breach of the salary cap that has everyone up in arms but the elaborate measures the Bulldogs undertook to keep their players on the payroll and to throw the hounds of the NRL off the scent. The whole sorry saga leaves a bad taste in the mouth of all league fans as the coaches and players of the Bulldogs plead for calm amidst the chaos. Fat chance I say.
I have read in the papers the desperation and sorrow of the Dogs fans and I can sympathise with their plight but by and large they have all missed the point. They speak of other clubs allegedly breaking the salary cap and this may be true but every powerful club has shed players and high profile ones at that in the last season and have done minimal recruiting as the effects of the salary cap start to distribute the talent across the board to fourteen compliant clubs.
The fallout from this saga is a no win situation for the NRL. On one hand we have the Dogs sitting on the sidelines if everything goes according to a well disciplined plan and the semi finals will seem slightly hollow without the best performed team not participating. The question will always remain, were we the bona fide champions in season 2002 because we won the title without having to play the Dogs? A very good question but one I think will keep us guessing forever and a day.
On the other hand we leave the Dogs in and they win the title and the reputation of the club and the already sullied Bulldogs takes a further nosedive as a tainted champion collects the trophy at Stadium Australia amidst a half full but resentful crowd. Fans from the other fourteen clubs will see the Bulldogs title as open slather on foul play and will have every right to expect their club to breach the salary cap if the title is so easily bought.
There are pros and cons for both sides of the argument but people will always remember the treacherous way in which the Bulldogs came to prominence in 2002 and that treachery will live much longer in the minds of league fans if they are allowed to compete in this year?s finals series. Without the Dogs competing, we may lose a little flair and spirit but at least the champion will have truly earned the right to stand there on October sixth and hold the trophy aloft, while the Dogs will get the chance at redemption in season 2003. That is a scenario I can live with but it is the only one and it could prove to be the biggest quantum leap for the game since it broke away from Rugby 107 years ago.