Former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has implored the Canterbury Bulldogs to own their current struggles as the club looks to turn its fortunes around.
The Bulldogs have been in an underwhelming period for the past few years, having not qualified for playoff football since 2016 and ending the season in second to last a year ago.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Hansen, who joined the club as a high performance consultant late last year, said the slump the Bulldogs were currently in wasn't something that could be changed overnight.
"Everybody in the Bulldogs would say they're not where they want to be, but you can't just snap your fingers and get there," Hansen said.
The Bulldogs have been convincingly beaten in all five of their games this season, with their closest result a 32-16 loss to the Newcastle Knights in the opening round. In those five games, they have been held scoreless three times.
It hasn't been an easy start to the campaign for the Bulldogs, with competition favourites in the Melbourne Storm, Penrith Panthers and South Sydney Rabbitohs among their opponents, however they were also thumped 24-0 by the Brisbane Broncos who were the only team to finish lower than the Bulldogs last year and are expected to struggle against in 2021.
"They've had a rough start," Hansen said.
"When you're trying to change something and you've been struggling, the positive of having these tough games is they're getting a true reflection of where they are against the best.
"That's the reality. You can't walk away from reality."
It's not the first time Hansen has worked with Bulldogs' coach Trent Barrett, who spent a week with the All Blacks in 2019 in an attempt to upskill as a coach. Barrett asked Hansen to come onboard as an advisor when he was appointed Bulldogs' coach in October last year.
While Hansen, who only tasted defeat 10 times in 108 matches at the helm of the All Blacks, is still based in New Zealand, the Telegraph reports he and Barrett are in contact every week, with Hansen getting in touch with the Bulldogs' mentor soon after each of the team's games.
"Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, who have allowed things to go the wrong way for probably longer than they should have, the road back to where they want to be, is going to be longer than what it should be.
"You can't change that, that's what it is. You can't run away; you can't hide from it.
"You've got to own it and there's going to be some tough days, but out of the adversity, you're going to build something that is going to last.
"You want to build something that's going to last not for one year, but forever."