Canterbury Bulldogs appoint Trent Barrett coach for 2021 NRL season

The Canterbury Bulldogs have wasted little time in getting their man after they officially locked down Trent Barrett as their coaching replacement for Dean Pay. READ THE LATEST.

Canterbury have confirmed Trent Barrett will replace Dean Pay as head coach on a three-year deal, but he won’t be joining the Bulldogs this season.

Barrett will see out the 2020 season as an assistant with Penrith before joining the Bulldogs for 2021.

It is Barrett’s first foray back into head coaching since he quit his position at Manly in 2018.

Bulldogs chief executive Andrew Hill was excited at the prospect of Barrett coming on board.

“We have acted swiftly to secure the services of Trent because we believe he is the right man to take our club forward,” Hill said.

“Having spoken to Trent on a number of occasions we have been impressed with his vision for the future of our football team and how he will look to develop our players on and off the field.

“Trent has been around the game a long time and has a great knowledge of football and how to bring the best out of players. We all look forward to him joining the Bulldogs family at the end of this season.”

Barrett, who played 235 NRL matches with the Illawarra Steelers, St George Illawarra Dragons and Cronulla Sharks, and 60 games for Wigan in the UK, confirmed he would not focus on the Bulldogs until after his Panthers duties were completed.

“I look forward to, and am excited by, the challenges ahead in terms of making this club a serious competition force again,” said Barrett, who represented New South Wales on 11 occasions and won 15 caps for Australia

“I would also like to thank the Panthers for their support and understanding, As my job there is not yet done, and out of respect to the Panthers, I will not be making any further comment until the conclusion of the season.”

Luke Thompson carts it up for the Bulldogs. Grant Trouville. NRL Photos
Luke Thompson carts it up for the Bulldogs. Grant Trouville.

Star Canterbury recruit Luke Thompson has admitted he wasn’t always a fan of Trent Barrett, the man set to be take over as Bulldogs head coach.

The Englishman doesn’t know much about Barrett as a coach but does remember the new Bulldogs boss making life hell for St Helens as a Wigan player. Barrett played 60 games for Wigan in the English Super League in 2007 and 2008.

Thompson, a mad St Helens supporter growing up, still remembers the impact Barrett had in the fierce derby between the northern England clubs.

“I don’t know too much about Trent Barrett as a coach, from what I’ve seen he’s a good fellow. I watched him when he had his time at Wigan,” Thompson said.

“He was fantastic when he was at Wigan, he was a great player over there. I grew up following St Helens, he used to terrorise us a bit so he was good as a player.”

Unlike Thompson, teammate Sione Katoa has an intimate knowledge of Barrett’s capabilities as a coach from his time at Penrith.

Barrett coached Katoa in the Holden Cup under 20s competition in 2014, during his first stint at the foot of the mountains as an assistant between 2012 -2015.

Sione Katoa believes Trent Barrett can help fix Canterbury’s attack.
Sione Katoa believes Trent Barrett can help fix Canterbury’s attack.

Canterbury forwards Corey Harawira-Naera and Chris Smith also featured in that under 20s outfit.

The hooker praised Barrett’s appointment and believes the coach’s ‘footy brains’ could be the key to unlocking the Bulldogs’ splattering attack.

“He’s a halfback, he has a lot of brains, (knows) a lot different player and how the game works and you can see it at the Panthers and what he has brought to them this year. Baz (Barrett) will bring the more attacking side of things and I think from there on the players just take over,” Katoa said.

Barrett has been credited for helping the ladder-leading Panthers turn around their attacking form in season 2020.

According to Fox Sports Lab, Canterbury only score 1.9 tries per game compared to Penrith’s 4.1.

But the Bulldogs are also struggling in other key attacking areas – they currently make the fewest tackle busts (138) in the competition and have only made one more linebreak (28) than the Gold Coast Titans.

The Bulldogs need a spark. Picture: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images
The Bulldogs need a spark.

One player that could inject some life into Canterbury’s attack is Penrith’s livewire playmaker Matt Burton. The halfback is contracted until the end of next year but Katoa said his addition to Canterbury’s roster as the club rebuilds was a move worth considering.

“I played a couple of games towards the end of the (NSW Cup) season in 2019 with Burto,” Katoa said.

“He’s got a good running game and kicking game, they’re probably the best aspects of his game. He can also read the game pretty well and he just plays footy, he’s one of those players that plays eyes-up footy.”

Barrett spent three seasons as head coach at Manly but quit the club at the end of 2018 after his relationship with the board deteriorated over the lack of resources to his job.

At the time, questions were also raised about Barrett’s man management but Katoa believes the incoming coach is the right mentor for players at Canterbury.

“He gave me confidence. He helped me with backing myself and being confident in the plays (I was trying to execute) and in whatever I did on the field, it was just to be confident and to do it a 100 per cent,” Katoa said.

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