Canterbury coach Dean Pay joked that the NRL's proposal of a wildcard weekend would work in their favour after the club's roller-coaster season finished on a huge positive on Saturday night at ANZ Stadium.
The Bulldogs made it five wins in their last six outings with a 30-14 upset win over the Broncos, the third win over a top-eight side in that period, while reaching 30 points for the first time in 2019.
As it happens the Bulldogs' 12th-placed finish wouldn't have been enough to get them into the proposed wildcard round but the way Pay's men finished 2019 they can set their sights much higher than that anyway.
"It was one of our better performances of the year and has been building for quite a while," Pay said.
"We'd love one of those wildcard rules to throw us in there. Why not? You'd love one of those. It's totally different to last year, in the last 10 weeks we've found our way to play footy."
Pay, who entered the second half of the season under intense media scrutiny, felt like the side had hit their straps albeit it too late.
The mid-season signing of Dallin Watene-Zelezniak from Penrith proved a turning point for the Belmore-based club, who now look to have moved past the losses of experienced players David Klemmer, Josh Morris, Brett Morris and Greg Eastwood from last year.
"It's been a hell of a ride," Pay said.
Lewis and Meaney combine again
"We started with the youngest squad in the competition and it has taken us a while to gel and keep learning about one and other and play with one and other.
"Over the past 10 weeks in particular we have really found our way to play footy together and what works for us. We're going to have a similar group next year and some of our young boys have got 25 games in them now.
"I enjoy doing the job. I love turning up there, they're sponges and want to get better all the time. We are aiming to be a top-four team, that's what our aim is."
A further positive was the resurgence of 29-year-old Kieran Foran, who produced some superb form late in the season as he came through the final four games injury-free and running with vigour.
"I've forgot what it's felt like to finish a last-round game," Foran said.
Smith seals it for the Bulldogs
"I've enjoyed the last month coming back and getting some wins with the boys and being able to contribute there. Hopefully I get a bit of luck on the injury-front next season."
In the only concern for the Bulldogs, hooker Jeremy Marshall-King left the field early with a shoulder injury and did not return.
Foran believes rookies like Marshall-King, along with Lachlan Lewis, Jack Cogger and Nick Meaney, were the glue for the club in 2019.
"I thought that was a real positive for this club and we'll be so much better off for it next year," Foran said.
"We'll keep majority of the side together. They're the future of the club and have got years ahead of them."