Barking Barrett Muzzled

Phil Gould and Trent barrett
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cover Art

“Hoping for him to get the sack”, “Gee, I thought he was addressing the media about him leaving”, and “Second rate coach, he can’t coach” were just a handful of the irate comments made by Canterbury supporters after head coach Trent Barrett’s Mid-Week Press Conference. The impassioned pleas of their fanbase aren’t entirely unjustified either, as the 44-year-old has won just four of the thirty-one games in which he’s been in charge of the eight-time Premiership victors. Adding salt to the wound of that historically poor record is that his side has conceded 146 points over their last four games, as they occupy an incredibly dreary 16th place on the ladder and their PD of -109.

However, with their recent spending spree, which included bringing in Kyle Flanagan last season and Premiership winner Matt Burton + NSW/Australian representative Josh Addo-Carr at the start of the current campaign, everyone expected things to be vastly different. The expectation on the Bulldogs was to be a side that could have a real crack at a Top Eight berth, but instead, they’re floundering around with the other burnt teams of the NRL. Their attack isn’t as cohesive as it should be, while their defence looks atrociously incoherent at times. And as a coach, if you can even call him that, Barrett has seriously struggled to put all the pieces together. He’s choked; there are no two other ways about it.

However, the blame doesn’t and shouldn’t lie all at his feet, but certainly, a large chunk of it should. As in the shortened 2020 NRL season, the Bulldogs finished with a 3-20 record, so he knew what he was walking into when he joined the club not long after that. Not to mention that before he linked up with his players in Belmore, he had been head coach of Manly for three seasons. Managing the Sea Eagles, he reached the finals just once during his short-lived stint at the Northern-Beaches based club. Such is life coaching in the NRL; in addition to his previous botched Manly role, he may well have been under the assumption that his job at the Bulldogs could potentially have been/be his last if he weren’t to live up to the hype surrounding his arrival.

Is Barrett too soft on his troops?

We all know that Barrett can deliver a serving to his players if they aren’t performing well enough on the field. But that isn’t what this is. He doesn’t understand what proper player management is. A perfect example of this is that throughout the opening four games of the season, Flanagan wasn’t given a crack to play the role of Playmaker. He was adding further scrutiny to the young kid and whether he was/is capable or not of having an impactful role on any team. So who does Barrett finally decide to start him against? Penrith of all teams. He’s not been given a decent go of it all season, and then he’s got to get his motors running against the most destructive team in the competition! The mind boggles.

Jeremy Marshall-King is another unfortunate example of Barrett’s inept coaching abilities. Barett’s not playing out on the field, but he picks the players, so a lot of blame goes on him in these situations. Marshall-King, at 26-years-of-age, should be pretty developed as a player at this stage of his career. However, he’s currently far from it. Despite being privileged to play in all seven of the Bulldogs games this season, the underperforming Hooker has made six errors, given away five penalties, and been sin-binned once. While his try assists are also at zero, a supremely disappointing statistic for somebody who touches the ball a lot throughout each clash. Why does Barrett continue to insist on him starting?

Phil Gould – A coach exterminator?

Earlier this week, Bulldogs Head of Football Phil Gould took a field and video session with the players ahead of their clash against the Roosters. When Gould was previously a part of the Roosters, he got rid of Graham Murray and Ricky Stuart, as he also did with both Ivan Cleary and Anthony Griffin when he was at Penrith. Barrett addressed the situation and said he was ‘cool’ with what Gould did. But it also surprisingly forced him to come out and lambast that his players know that he’s their coach, so clearly, he’s acutely aware of his potential sacking. This only adds further scrutiny to Barett as a coach and unnecessary pressure to the sides’ upcoming Roosters matchup. And the question has to be asked, how is he supposed to perform his role properly when people like Gould are ‘meddling’ with things behind the scenes? It would certainly make it much more difficult, that’s for sure.

While some critical figures believe this spells out some nasty messages. As per Fox League, Paul Kent believes that Barrett’s time at the Bulldogs will come to a quick end after this saga and asked how the players could trust him anymore after sending “mixed messages” such as what just occurred. While 110X capped and former Premiership winning Bulldog Braith Anasta emphatically stated that the club had “gone backwards” under the guidance of both Barrett and Gould.

Regardless of what happens to Barrett at Canterbury, it’s safe to say he indeed finds himself embroiled in a highly toxic and volatile situation. Gould potentially oppresses him, which could spell bad news for his time in Western Sydney. However, as I’ve stated repeatedly, I genuinely believe that he is a shocking coach, and this article only further exemplifies that. Barrett was an incredible player, but he’s been an appalling coach. He is not the right man to be at the helm as Canterbury attempt to be led from being cellar-dwellers to Premiership threats once again.

Toby is somebody who is a knowledgeable and passionate sports fan, but none more than the NRL. From a young age, he has been covering and supporting Australia’s greatest code. He has diplomas in both sports and business, while he loves a good laugh, some good food and travelling.

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