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New coach, old tricks: Dogs must regain snarl for Barrett to succeed

The last time Trent Barrett tasted victory as an NRL head coach was August 11, 2018, when the club he formerly coached, Manly, beat his current club, Canterbury.

It was one of only seven wins for Barrett in a troubled season which would prove to be last at Brookvale, despite the fact he still had a year to run on his contract.

Now in his second coming as an NRL coach, the former Dally M Medal winner who played 235 first-grade games, 15 Tests and 11 Origins must summon every bit of his footy nous and fighting spirit to get his side out of the 0-3 hole they have dug for themselves.

In two of those three losses the boys from Belmore haven't even troubled the scorer, so the prospect of trying to find enough points to down the potent Rabbitohs on Good Friday is daunting to say the least.

The last time the Bulldogs started a season 0-4 was another lifetime ago in 1971, when the man at the helm was Bob Hagan, a member of Canterbury's 1967 grand final side and later CEO of the club.

Barrett: Lewis gets chance to lock in pivotal position

Like so many of Canterbury's coaches in the ensuing five decades, Hagan had worn the blue and white jersey with distinction before going on to coach "the family club".

Proud Canterbury men like Steve Folkes, who played 245 games for the club and won four premierships before delivering another title as coach in 2004.

Barrett's predecessor Dean Pay was also a premiership winner during his 108 games for the Bulldogs from 1989-95 while Chris Anderson, Phil Gould, Kevin Moore and Jim Dymock all fitted snuggly into the narrative of "former player who understands the Bulldogs DNA takes over as coach".

Canterbury patriarch Peter Moore with coach Phil Gould in 1988.
Canterbury patriarch Peter Moore with coach Phil Gould in 1988. ©NRL Photos

Anderson masterminded the monumental upset win over Manly in the 1995 grand final and Gould got the job done in his maiden season in 1988 at the tender age of 30.

Those glory days are now a distant memory for the Bulldogs, who have finished no higher than 11th in the past four seasons and the best part of another 12 months away from reinforcements arriving in the form of Josh Addo-Carr and Matt Burton.

In the meantime, Barrett is trying everything he knows to get his men to tackle like Warren Ryan's famed "Dogs of War" in 1984-85 or attack like Ted Glossop's "Entertainers" of 1980 or even just compete like Des Hasler's Class of 2014 which fought and scrapped their way to a grand final showdown with this Friday's opponent Souths.

Should they lose to the Rabbitohs and then again to the Storm in round five, theirĀ  2021 Telstra Premiership campaign will be as good as over and the recriminations will start very early at a club not used to failure.

Barrett lived through plenty of drama during his three seasons at Manly, another club fond of throwing an "old boy" the clipboard before they'll trust an outsider.

Bulldogs legend Steve Folkes.
Bulldogs legend Steve Folkes. ©NRL Photos

It all came to a head at the end of 2018 when Barrett departed Manly with a year still to run on his contract and favourite son Des Hasler returned for a second stint.

Given he is just three games into a three-year deal and the Bulldogs won just three times in 2020, no one should be expecting Barrett to perform miracles.

Just because he never pulled on the Canterbury jersey during a decorated career doesn't mean he cares any less for the club and its proud reputation.

Bulldogs v Rabbitohs - Round 4

What Canterbury have every right to expect is total commitment against heavyweights Souths and Melbourne in the next two games. If they go down, then go down snarling, like the Doggies of old.

Like Steve Folkes and Peter Kelly. Like Willie Mason and Mark O'Meley.

Like they care.

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.