In a season of under-performance and uncertainty, around their coach and the their salary cap for next year, smiles have been few and far between. They were back on the dials of Canterbury players, however, on Sunday after a 30-16 win over Manly.
Whether what they produced on Sunday and what they dish out in the final two rounds of the season will be enough to save Des Hasler's job is yet to be seen, but a gutsy display against top-eight opposition certainly does the mentor's cause no harm.
"It's always good to get a smile on the face when you win. It's more a reward for the effort," Hasler said. "We've been working pretty hard. Our defence has been fairly consistent for most of the year. We were able to score some points and enjoy it."
The much-maligned Bulldogs' attack clicked against a disappointing Sea Eagles with Moses Mybe, at halfback, and Will Hopoate, at fullback, impressive and hooker Michael Lichaa enjoying one of his better games after being recalled to the line-up.
Their commitment and desperation in defence was also a prominent feature of Sunday's win, only their second since in the past two months. On two occasions Manly seemed certain to score but were stopped, the first when Sea Eagles lock Jake Trbojevic fumbled the ball over the line midway through the second half, and the second when Mbye pulled off a diving try-saver on winger Matt Wright.
No wonder that Bulldogs captain James Graham, who has attracted interest from St George Illawarra as Canterbury face the reality of losing players to get underneath next season's $9.4m salary cap, said the aftermath of the game felt "a lot better than it's felt recently".
"I think out there we just got a couple of early tries and just felt a lot more confident i think. We hung onto the ball better than we've done in recent weeks, we managed the possession, and it was good to get some tries," Graham said.
"To be honest, the atmosphere at training and the dressing room has been pretty upbeat all things considering. There is a lot of excuses or reasons why it wouldn't be and I think probably tonight showed that. In a few of the weeks previous just our confidence has been rattled a little bit and for whatever reason tonight it all stuck and just gave us that confidence."