NRL 2018: Dubbo's Dean Pay to make Canterbury Bulldogs coaching debut against Melbourne Storm

TOUGH TEST: Dean Pay will take on the Melbourne Storm in his NRL coaching debut. Photo: AP/MICK TSIKAS
TOUGH TEST: Dean Pay will take on the Melbourne Storm in his NRL coaching debut. Photo: AP/MICK TSIKAS

It couldn’t be any more difficult for Dean Pay.

The Dubbo product will make his NRL coaching debut against defending premiers Melbourne Storm following the release of the official 2018 draw on Thursday morning.

It is also a fitting match for Pay after he spent time working as under 20s coach at Melbourne, where he enjoyed much time alongside Storm head coach Craig Bellamy.

Bellamy was one of the many to praise the Bulldogs’ decision to appoint their former hard-as-nails forward as coach last month and wished him all the best in his new job.

"Obviously he was a wonderful player for the Bulldogs, so he knows what the Bulldogs are about," Bellamy said of Pay.

"That's basically what their club wanted - someone that knows what the Bulldogs stand for.

"But Dean done a wonderful job for us with out under-20s, brought a lot of our young kids through. He's a terrific bloke, a real decent guy. I'm sure he'd be a great success."

But when the two sides meet on Saturday, March 10 all best wishes will be set aside.

Melbourne won the 2017 premiership but will be without star halfback Cooper Cronk next year – his movements in 2018 still uncertain – but Pay will still have to negate a side featuring the talents of Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Cameron Munster and flying wingers Josh Addo-Carr and Suliasi Vunivalu.

The clash with the Storm is part of a baptism of fire for Pay, whose Bulldogs side also meets the much-fancied Roosters and Panthers in rounds two and three.

While the Dogs battled last season and missed out on finals, there is no doubt Pay will itching to test his style of play against some of the competition’s powerhouses.

"We'll play our own style of footy, Bulldogs footy next year. We won't be copying anyone, that's for sure,” he said last month.

"My style, if there is anything, we want to be a really aggressive team with our defence and especially with our attack. We want to make sure we execute really well."

Pay will also get to enjoy two home games at Belmore Sportsground in 2018.