Phil Gould taking over a Canterbury training session this week has caused plenty of headlines – but what does it mean for the future Trent Barrett as head coach?
Reports via Fox Sports emerged on Wednesday that the Bulldogs’ head of football had given a ‘spray’ to the struggling outfit, and even took control of a field session following their loss to the Broncos.
The reports were confirmed by Barrett, who said he had ‘no dramas’ with Gould having his input.
But given the way the Bulldogs have started the season, despite signing the likes of Matt Burton, Tevita Pangai Junior and Josh Addo-Carr, has been well below-par and they are now sitting in 16th spot once again.
Speaking on NRL 360 on Wednesday night, senior reporter Paul Kent revealed the finer details of Gould’s takeover at Belmore and believes it could be the beginning of the end for Barrett.
“Trent Barrett’s in the review room, he’s got his first grade team there and he’s got his NSW Cup team in there,” he said.
“Suddenly with a bit of a theatrical bang the doors open and in walks Phil Gould. He then spends the next 10 minutes essentially praising the reserve grade side for their win.
“The tone turned and Gould then turned on the first grade side and gave them all a bake. He particularly focused on the spine…I spoke to people in the room who said he was particularly savage on Kyle Flanagan.
“Not just Kyle himself, they were all getting it, but Kyle did come in for special consideration which then had everybody back on their heels because as everyone knows in the game Gould can give one of the best bakes around.
“They walked out of the review and go onto the field, Trent Barrett stands at the sideline and lets Gould go out and run the session.
“He was particularly savage on Kyle Flanagan” 🔥
— Fox League (@FOXNRL) April 27, 2022
“The problem is this he’s done this before with Ricky Stuart and cost him his job at the Roosters after time. He fell out with Graham Murray when he was coaching director at the Roosters. Then you have what happened at Penrith with Ivan Cleary, he sacked him because he was too tired.
“That noise in the distance is the funeral march that’s just begun. Generally when it happens this way, it never ends well, and I think that’s pretty much the way this is going to now head.
“It’s going to take a lot to see if Trent Barrett can be saved.”
Barrett has struggled to lift Canterbury from their obvious issues, but has overseen some quality signings for both 2022 and 2023.
Viliame Kikau and Reed Mahoney will both join the Bulldogs next year, while the aforementioned trio of Burton, Pangai and Addo-Carr are all locked in long-term.
Braith Anasta – a former premiership winner with the club – was left confused as to how the club hasn’t improved this year.
“I just can’t fathom the position they’re in…they’ve gone backwards,” he said on NRL 360.
“They’ve got Trent Barrett and Gus Gould – two of apparently the smartest minds in the game – but the club is going backwards.”
Always an open book on matters at the Bulldogs, Gould has also opened up and explained his side of the training session.
He told Wide World Of Sports on Wednesday night that the criticism was off the mark and over-the=top.
“I was then talking to Trent in the middle of the field while players were doing some skill drills,” Gould said.
“They were a bit sluggish to start the week and I said to Trent they needed a liven up. He threw me his whistle. I was wearing jeans. It was a bit of fun and something different for the players. Not sure that my 1980s approach will change the world, but it was fun.
“I would do anything Trent asked me to do….huge over-reaction, but that’s typical.”
Gould also took to Twitter following the media coverage of the session, and was more than happy to take the hit.
As long as they are bagging me, they are leaving someone else alone. That’s a bonus. https://t.co/OIZRnGPP28
— Phil Gould (@PhilGould15) April 27, 2022
Canterbury will take on the Roosters on Saturday night – and another loss will only compile the issues for Barrett and Gould.
The coach gave his version of events while speaking to the media on Thursday morning.
“It was my idea that he was on there,” Barrett said.
“He certainly does not undermine me in anything I do here. If anything he is here to help.
“Why wouldn’t I use the resource of Phil Gould at the club? He is the GM of football, he is a very good premiership-winning coach.
“He is here to help and we’re in it together. It’s been blown into something that wasn’t an issue.”
The side will get somewhat of a reprieve following the clash with the Tricolours, with games against the Raiders, Knights, Tigers and Dragons to follow. If they can come out of the next five weeks with at least a couple of wins, Barrettt will be able to hold on a little bit longer.
The 44-year-old had a rollercoaster three seasons at Manly, before aiding Penrith as an assistant coach for two seasons and helping revitalise their attack – in particular superstar halves Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai.
It’s also worth noting that Barrett was forced to inherit one of the worst NRL rosters in recent memory, as well as the litany of board issues and football department changes at Belmore. It was never going to happen overnight – but perhaps Bulldogs fans were hoping the improvements would be starting by now.
In fairness, Canterbury haven’t been far off in a few games this year. They competed well against South Sydney and Brisbane, but were ultimately outclassed later in the game.
Barrett is continuing to search for an 80-minute performance from his side. It will be tough this week without their inspirational captain Josh Jackson against a hungry Roosters outfit – but they need to compete for the full game.
Could the mid-week spray from Gould help achieve that? Only time will tell.