A return to less structured football, keeping off-field issues separate from their performance and the resurgence of Kieran Foran will result in the Bulldogs rising again in 2019, according to skipper Josh Jackson.
Canterbury won four of their last six games in the 2018 Telstra Premiership season to climb to 12th on the NRL ladder after wallowing with Parramatta in the cellar for most of the year.
Jackson said any negative headlines surrounding the club at the end of last year had been put in the rear-view mirror and wouldn't undo the momentum Dean Pay and his players had garnered.
"We've trained well and we're confident about each other as a group. I feel we're way ahead, footy-wise, of where we were this time last year," he said.
"The last six games last year we showed the style of footy that really suits us and we've worked on that the whole pre-season.
"It's a more relaxed style – a lot less structured with some ad-lib in there.
Jackson's defence of Napa
"We started last year trying to force things and being really structured. It just doesn't suit us. We need to be more free-flowing and we will be."
Moving Kieran Foran to No.6 from No.7 will also have an immediate impact, Jackson feels, which was on show last Saturday when the Bulldogs played Canberra in Bega in a trial.
Lachlan Lewis and Jack Cogger shared the halfback role against the Raiders.
"When Kieran plays his best it's when he runs the ball a lot. Last year we tried to have him at halfback as more of the ball distributor. But this year Lachie or Jack will play that role and Kieran will have that running mentality," Jackson said.
"I remember playing against him when he was at Manly and he was so tough to handle as he'd just run with the ball and became so unpredictable.
"His body is now finally right – in really good shape – he hasn't missed a session. He is really fit and hopefully you'll see the benefits of all that."
It will indeed be nice to have the old Kieran Foran back – a player who hardly missed a game in seven seasons with Manly but then played sporadically with a different club the next three – 2016 with the Eels, the Warriors in 2017 and the Bulldogs in 2018.
After injuries restricted him to 12 games last year, a rejuvenated Foran is craving a return to the form and the influence he had in games that earned him Test caps with New Zealand.
The Bulldogs want to put aside coach sackings, player departures, salary cap woes, and reputation blows and get back to the NRL finals after two years in the wilderness.
Another item buried in the Bulldogs' backyard was the fallout from their Mad Monday celebrations last September and said the club had moved on from the controversy.
"It was an embarrassing time for us, for everyone involved, and it certainly doesn't represent us as a club – who we are and who we want to be," Jackson said.
"Individually it doesn't represent the players at all. It's been well-documented all that Adam [Elliott] has done for the community for example, and it hurt him and Marcelo Montoya and the others involved.
"They were thrown into the newspaper and shown to be this certain type of person who they completely are not.
"In hindsight it was a silly mistake. But people don't get to see who those players are every day and who they are as people. It was hard to see them go through that and their families to go through it. I'm glad we're over it now and that we're smarter and stronger for it."