NRL legend Laurie Daley has urged Trent Barrett to consider rejecting the Bulldogs coaching job, after a stunning condemnation of the club’s infighting.
Daley said that Barrett, a Penrith assistant who has already had a failed stint coaching Manly, had one more chance as an NRL head coach and could ruin his career at last-placed Canterbury.
That damning verdict came after Nine NRL reporter Danny Weidler detailed the dark underbelly of the club, including the final straw for departing coach Dean Pay, who reportedly decided to quit midway through his third season in the job. Steve Georgallis was made interim coach after Pay’s exit was made official by the club on Tuesday.
Weidler said that club great Pay had been shown “incredible disrespect” by the Bulldogs and knew the end was nigh when he was overruled on signing Josh Reynolds, a former Canterbury hero, despite a bottom-dollar bid. The snub told Pay that he had little control over a poor roster that ultimately doomed his reign to failure.
Weidler said that Bulldogs chairwoman Lynne Anderson and football GM Steve Price, a club legend, had let down Pay and suggested they should follow him out the door.
“I think a lot of people would have liked to have seen Dean Pay given another 12 months, given they’ve got some money at their disposal to be able to go out and chase some players,” Daley said on Sky Sports Radio. “But obviously that’s come to an end.
“I think the Bulldogs would be an attractive proposition for a coach if they didn’t have all this boardroom drama going on. I think if you had that stability there and you knew you had the support, I think they’d be in a good position because they’ve got money available, they can go to the market, they can attract players.
“But with the ongoing behind-the-scenes noises, you couldn’t say to someone with certainty, ‘Go there’; because you don’t know what’s going to happen in 18 months time. You may not be the flavour of the month and you may be out of a job very quickly.
“If it’s Trent, he’s got one more opportunity. If he fails at his next job, well he’s no longer going to be a first-grade coach. I think if he sits back and waits, he will get an opportunity somewhere down the path.
“A bit like [Sydney Roosters assistant] Craig Fitzgibbon. You don’t have to be the person that puts their hand up for every job. You can sit back, think about where your future’s going to lie, you’re in a good system; Penrith will have success for the next five years, the way they’re going with all these young players coming through.
“So I don’t think he needs to rush into making a decision, just because it’s the first available job. If I was him, if I was guiding him, I’d be saying, ‘Mate, be very, very careful’.
“I just don’t like it when people start to meddle in the affairs and then things get murky and there’s no stability there whatsoever. Uncertainty. I can understand why the playing group aren’t performing, too.
“I know as a player, you shouldn’t worry about what goes on in the boardroom but you do. It’s one of the first things you talk about; ‘Who’s the coach going to be? Are we still going to be here? What’s the roster going to look like next year?’
Barrett heads a Bulldogs coaching hit-list that includes former NSW coach Daley, Queensland coach Kevin Walters, ex-Broncos and Panthers boss Anthony Griffin, plus England Rugby coach Eddie Jones, according to Weidler. The Bulldogs have asked Penrith’s permission to speak with Barrett.
Daley replied that he he had “never spoken to anyone, no interest”. Weidler said that he believed Walters held the same view.
The Nine NRL reporter gave a searing inside look at the Bulldogs.
“I do know Dean was increasingly frustrated with the way he was being treated by the Bulldogs club,” Weidler said on Sky Sports Radio.
“You have to remember, Dean Pay was brought into the Bulldogs – the so-called family club – as a former great of the club, as the man to guide them through a difficult period.
“It looks to me though, unfortunately, that he’s just been made a fall guy, a stop-gap, and he’s been treated with incredible disrespect by the club.
“Yes, their results were not great but I don’t think Dean Pay really had a chance at any point with the roster that he was given and the roster he had going forward.
“The final straw for Dean Pay was when he tried to recruit Josh Reynolds on minimal money for this year. Minimal money, and was not given the chance.
“Now, if that’s going to happen, the coach is never really going to be given a chance and it’s time for other people at that club to stand down and go.
“Why Dean Pay is the sole victim of what’s been going on, I’ll never know, but I can’t see how that club can move forward with the likes of Lynne Anderson there as their chairperson, with their board there that’s warring.
“It is a highly unattractive club and also they’ve got a guy who’s in charge of their football, Steve Price, who along with Lynne Anderson who’s let Dean Pay be the face of everything.
“I’m not particularly close to Dean Pay, a lot of other journos are, but I can say that he’s handled himself well. I can also say that Lynne Anderson hasn’t, nor has Steve Price. They’ve both been invisible people throughout this whole mess.”
Weidler said that Pay, who led the Bulldogs to a pair of 12th-placed finishes before this season, was set up to fail. The club is set to claim its first wooden spoon since 2008 and Bulldogs premiership winner Johnathan Thurston has also branded Pay’s supposed culpability “unfair”, given he had limited say over the roster.
“He was put there in a situation that he couldn’t win,” Weidler said.
“His playing roster, with no disrespect to the players there, would be in the bottom three of the league without a question.
“I think he has been made the fall guy for poor management for years. There are now massive, massive dramas on their board and I don’t see how any coach in their right mind would want to go and coach there without some guarantees of their future and guarantees that there won’t be any kind of board interference from meddling people at the club, who are in it for their own reasons rather than the right reasons for the club.
“I don’t know who’s going to be on that board going forward in years to come but I do think they need to blow up the situation. I’m upset for Dean because whilst he may not be the best coach in the league, he’s a decent person and he’s been hung out to dry, really.”
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Weidler said that in conversations with Penrith officials, he had been told that Barrett may well reject the Canterbury job. He said that there were serious questions over Barrett’s suitability for the role, with he and Daley agreeing that he would effectively need a bodyguard in the form of a senior coaching director.
“They reckon Trent Barrett’s long odds of taking it, which I don’t know if it’s true or not. They think he’s very happy at Penrith and is very happy being a part of an outfit that, they could win the comp, Penrith,” Weidler said.
“Anthony Griffin … I think he’s genuinely got some interest in the position,.
“Eddie Jones has been tossed up. Eddie Jones would like to coach rugby league one day but I think he’d like to be in charge of the Rabbitohs if he had his choice. I don’t know whether Eddie Jones is suddenly going to come back and be in charge.
“Trent Barrett is the one that everybody’s talking about but Trent Barrett didn’t have a good exit at Manly. I think there is no doubt that Trent Barrett is a good coach but I still think there are some doubts about whether Trent Barrett will be able to walk into a club like the Bulldogs, which is toxic, and be able to handle himself.
“He couldn’t handle what was going on at Manly at the time. Players were a little bit out of control and if he walks into a club like the Bulldogs on his own, I think it’ll be a very difficult task for him.
“If I’m in charge of Trent Barrett, if I’m his agent or advisor, I’d be saying, ‘Yeah, Trent, you can take that job but you need somebody with you who can be a buffer between all the external noise and madness that goes on there, to handle that’.
“Because I don’t think a young coach, he’s not that experienced, should be put in a position where he’s got to deal with all of the other stuff that’s going on. That’s what makes it a difficult job to take.
“It’s not that they don’t have money, it’s not that they’re not a proud club. It’s just that there’s so much bickering and there are so many people with their own agendas at that club, that is makes it very difficult to coach at.
“I think Barrett needs an advisor, whether it be a Laurie Daley or a Wayne Bennett or a Phil Gould or an Eddie Jones. You need somebody to act as a buffer.”