In the space of 10 years Dean Pay has gone from a Group 11 premiership-winning coach to having one of the top jobs in the National Rugby League.
The Canterbury Bulldogs made an official announcement on Thursday, confirming Pay has signed a two-year contract with the club.
Speculation has been rife Pay, who played 108 matches for the Bulldogs between 1989 and 1995, would take over ever since Des Hasler was sacked last week.
"It's a tremendous honour to be offered the head coach's role at a club that I loved playing for,” Pay told the club’s official website.
“Having learnt under some great coaches I now believe that the time is right for me to step up into the head coach's role.”
The move to the Bulldogs ends a five-year partnership with current Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart.
The two have spent four years in the nation’s capital while they had previously also spent an ill-fated season at Parramatta.
They had worked together prior to that, with Pay acting as assistant coach when Stuart coached the NSW Country side in 2008.
Pay was still at the helm of Dubbo CYMS then, having coached them to the Group 11 title just a year before.
It's a tremendous honour to be offered the head coach's role at a club that I loved playing for.Dean Pay
While some Bulldogs fans raised doubts about Pay’s suitability to the job given his lack of experience in a head coach’s role, the Dubbo product has worked under some of the best in the game.
After his time back at CYMS, Pay was assistant coach under Kevin Walters at the Catalans Dragons in 2009, before then spending time as the under 20s coach at Melbourne from 2010-12, where he worked alongside Craig Bellamy.
He also won five straight series as the NSW Origin under 20s coach from 2012-16.
But Thursday’s announcement means he returns to the club where he won a premiership in 1995.
“The Bulldogs have a great history and tradition and I’m looking forward to the chance to work with a talented group of players, where respect and discipline will be the cornerstones of how we go about our business,” Pay said.
“The club has great foundations, facilities, staff and an incredible fan base. It is important that we work hard to make our supporters proud."
Bulldogs chairman Ray Dib was delighted with the appointment.
“Dean is a Bulldogs man through and through and someone who totally understands the history and tradition of the club,” he said.
“He was an outstanding player with the club and has carried that over into his coaching career, where he has worked under some excellent coaches, as well as showing that he can lead from the front with his superb record with the NSW Under 20's side.
“We want to bring back the Bulldogs culture of old and feel strongly that Dean is the man to do this."
Forty-eight-year-old Pay will be tasked with turning things around at Belmore after the club missed the finals for the first time in six seasons this year.