Danger man... The Bulldogs believe Ben Barba's move to five-eighth makes the Broncos more dangerous. Credit: Colin Whelan. Copyright: NRL Photos.
Bulldogs captain Mick Ennis believes Brisbane are a better team with former teammate Ben Barba at five-eighth, and insists his team won't go out of their way to target him in defence.
The first-year Bronco and former Bulldog has spent the past fortnight at pivot with mixed results, showing glimpses of his best while being unable to stop back-to-back defeats against premiership heavyweights Melbourne and Manly.
But Ennis said the late-season experiment to give Barba more opportunities with the ball makes this Friday night's opponents a far trickier challenge to prepare for.
"[They're] probably more dangerous, to be honest. Benny with his hands on the football more is a good thing for Brisbane," he said on Tuesday.
"He's a guy that can do things on a football field that not many can do. He's a guy that can turn half chances into points very quickly and he's got that balance where he's such a wonderful support player, pushing the likes of [Corey] Parker and [Alex] Glenn and those sorts of guys on the back of his quick play the balls."
The danger with Brisbane shifting Barba out of the backfield and into the frontline was always going to be his ability to handle the increased workload in defence, and while Ennis said the jury was out on the move, there was no doubting Barba's danger in attack.
"He's also really adapting to the defensive side of things as well. It's a tough job these days as well as a half defending on some of those edge back-rowers and the athletes that they are in the modern game," he said.
"Time will tell whether it's a good move, but he's handling it pretty well. I have no doubt we've got to try and limit his opportunities on Friday night, that's for sure."
Added teammate James Graham: "When he was bringing the ball back for us, he was very dangerous. But its' a different proposition lurking on those edges a bit more and playing with the ball a bit more too. He's definitely a big danger."
Ennis also dismissed the idea of attempting to unsettle the ex-Bulldog by directing the side's bevvy of big men at his left edge, particularly after Canterbury's horrendous ball-handling in last Friday night's loss to Penrith.
"We're not at that stage at the moment. We just need to make sure that we're really executing what we need to do and controlling when we've got the football, controlling what we need to do rather than trying to change our game plans to isolate certain players. We'll just be working through our stuff on Friday night. Fingers crossed it gets the results for us," he said.
"Benny's a pretty calm guy. He's aware of his qualities and what he does well. No doubt the coaching staff up there in Brisbane will be talking to Benny about getting through his normal game on Friday.
"We played him early in the year and he was very good. That was down here [in Sydney], so he'll probably be more comfortable up there in front of his fans. Again, it's about trying to limit some of Barba's qualities with the football and trying to keep him out of the game as much as possible."