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Bulldogs and Barrett clear the air over old Manly issues

Canterbury's hierarchy and No.1 coaching target Trent Barrett have assured each other that two key elements of his messy Manly exit – club instability and his own man management – won't undermine a prospective role at Belmore.

Barrett is understood to have impressed Bulldogs officials when interviewed this week, which took place after Dean Pay and CEO Andrew Hill first agreed to a mutual parting of ways on Sunday.

A three-year offer is believed to be in the works for the Panthers assistant.

Given his key role in Sydney's west – with star No.7 Nathan Cleary going so far as crediting Barrett for providing the "foundation" to a resurgent attack on Wednesday – the Bulldogs at this stage are not expecting to have their preferred candidate available until the off-season.

Canterbury has appointed Steve Georgallis as interim coach following Pay's exit.

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Speaking on Sky Sports Radio this week, former NSW Origin coach Laurie Daley urged Barrett to consider the "boardroom drama" and "ongoing behind-the-scenes noises" that have plagued Canterbury in recent times as he weighs up taking charge of one of the NRL's biggest clubs.

NRL.com understands the influence of external powerbrokers and factional infighting was raised by Barrett to the Bulldogs.

Among the myriad factors in Barrett's early departure from Manly was the club's instability at management level, with three chief executives and football managers across his three seasons at the Sea Eagles.

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Bulldogs veteran Aiden Tolman alluded to the old rugby league adage that "winning starts in the front office" as he weathered questions on Pay's exit and the Bulldogs environment on Wednesday.

"I don’t think the players need to get involved in board goings on but I will say that leadership starts at the top of places and we need that to filter down," Tolman said.

"I’m not saying what they’ve done is right or wrong. But I am saying that we have some clear clarity now in the direction that we’re moving.

"We want some clear decisions in place but they don’t have to be quick decisions. Everything needs to take due course and they need to make the right decisions."

In turn Barrett's own handling of off-field issues, which included former Manly utility Jackson Hastings and assistant coach Willie Peters leaving the club under his watch, has also been raised by the Bulldogs in discussions.

It's understood Barrett impressed with responses that illustrated what he had learned from the experiences, and a tumultuous first head coaching stint in general.

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The Panthers have indicated they won't stand in Barrett's way should he pursue the Canterbury coaching role, or any other in the game.

On Wednesday Cleary lavished praise on Barrett's influence at Penrith since returning to the club last year, praising his well-known ability to get the best out of NRL playmakers.

"I wish he wouldn't go but he's got a great footy mind and he would make a great coach," Cleary said.

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"He's been massive for me and I can't speak highly enough of what Baz has done.

"He's so good to bounce ideas off and talk footy with.

"He’s always there to give feedback and constructive criticism … he’s a super smart footy brain and he’s good to work with.

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"It’s hard to pinpoint one thing but I think simplicity was the main thing.

"He gave us a structure to work off and we’ve been building on that but he always spoke about playing eyes-up footy and if you see something to try and take it.

"The one thing that I’ve really appreciated from him is that he’s given me a great deal of confidence to play the way that I need to play and the way that suits me."

Meanwhile, Canterbury officials will meet back-rower Corey Harawira-Naera in coming days to discuss his future.

The Kiwi international is eligible for an NRL return as early as next week after serving the final match of a 10-game ban for his role in a pre-season incident involving schoolgirls in Port Macquarie.

At this stage he is contracted to the Bulldogs until the end of 2022 however rival clubs including Canberra and the Dragons are watching with interest should Harawira-Naera look to exit the club, while Jayden Okunbor is considered more likely to stay put when is own suspension lapses in round 15.