Along with crippling uncertainty over coaching and playing futures, Moses Mbye wants to make the constant chopping and changing of the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs’ spine a thing of the past.
With new coach Dean Pay sweeping aside the ugly end to Des Hasler’s reign and Mbye’s own contract assured after being shopped to rivals last year, the 24-year-old livewire has been pencilled in as the first-choice fullback since November.
Mbye’s move is the biggest shake-up in a revamped line-up that will is likely to result in Matt Frawley partnering star recruit Kieran Foran in the halves and a rejuvenated Michael Lichaa getting first crack at the No.9 jersey.
Mbye is banking on that combination staying the course – results, injuries and whatever else permitting – after a listless 2017 campaign in which the Bulldogs fielded eight spine combinations in 24 games.
Discarded fan favourite Josh Reynolds, who will line up for Wests Tigers in 2018, recently hinted at the confusion he endured around his week-to-week playing position as Hasler regularly tinkered with his spluttering attack.
And while Mbye stressed that “first-grade footballers should be able to piece together a plan reasonably quickly”, he welcomed the certainty Pay had offered his playmakers as they hunted a return to finals footy.
“Combinations in the modern game, they’re so important,” Mbye told NRL.com.
“It’s obvious, the successful teams more often than not, their spine has been together for a good amount of time.
“Look at Melbourne, they’ve been the most consistent side for the past decade, and they’ve kept the same spine that entire time.
“With Josh and I, we needed to spend a lot of time together which we didn’t always get and the style of us as footballers just didn’t suit the game plan as much as we would’ve liked it to.
“[Positional certainty] does give you a better preparation… and it has been a really enjoyable pre-season, probably my most enjoyable bar my first one in the NRL.
“[Pay] has brought in a great vibe around the club, and our new recruits are fitting in great. They’re contributing really well and it’s a happy camp.”
Mbye’s own transition to the No.1 jersey, adding to the halves, hooking and backline experience already accumulated in his 80 NRL games, remains an “organic process”.
Along with his own career change, Mbye highlighted Foran’s arrival as crucial to the Dogs’ overhaul in a bid to rediscover their best football.
Mbye freely admits he and Reynolds did not balance the side or suit Hasler’s game plans in 2017 due to their instinctive running games being so similar.
Hasler’s two most successful seasons at Belmore, culminating grand final appearances in 2012 and 2014, came with organising halves Kris Keating and Trent Hodkinson calling the shots while proverbial human pinball Reynolds was let loose.
While Mbye describes Pay’s approach as a “more expansive brand of footy”, he does see Foran providing the control and composure lacking at the Bulldogs scrumbase since Hodkinson’s departure in 2015.
“I think Foz is a different style of footballer to Hokko but he does control the team, that’s one of his great attributes, he can guide and organise a team so well,” Mbye said.
“He’s tough, he runs the ball hard and he knows what he wants out of you. That’s important because if he knows that, and he can tell you and get you in position, then everyone’s on the same page.
“We’re looking forward to playing with him for sure.”
Elsewhere, Pay continues to make the roster inherited from Hasler his own with the extension of back-rower Raymond Faitala-Mariner for an additional season.
The former Warriors forward is now contracted to the Bulldogs until the 2020, as is local junior and 19-year-old halfback Brandon Wakeham, who has added another two years to his deal.
The re-signings come on the back of three-quarters Moses Suli (Wests Tigers) and John Olive (Gold Coast Titans) linking with the club last week.