Brent Naden never imagined playing for any club other than the Bulldogs in 2022 but after a whirlwind week that saw he and Trent Barrett depart Belmore, the Indigenous All Stars centre hopes he can find top form and his former coach can find peace.
After playing for the Bulldogs against Newcastle on the Friday of Magic Round, Naden watched on as Barrett resigned on the Monday before moving on himself 24 hours later and finishing a crazy week helping Wests Tigers roll his former club at Leichhardt Oval.
With 102 metres from 11 runs in the Tigers’ 36-22 win, Naden took a solid first step towards his goal of being a consistent contributor for new boss Michael Maguire, but his thoughts were still very much with his former coach.
“It’s not in Trent to quit but you have to look after yourself and your mental health,” Naden said.
“He has been in the game for a long time and he felt a lot of pressure from football and now he has to look after his family and his mental state.
“I sent Trent a text on Monday after he resigned just to make sure he was OK and said we’d catch up for a coffee later. I have a lot of time for Baz and he had a lot of time for me. He’s one of my good mates.
“With Baz leaving, Gus [Gould] pulled me aside and said there was an option to come here [to the Tigers] this year and he advised it was probably my best option at the moment with a lot of young centres coming through at the Bulldogs.
“I went there to play under Baz but we weren’t performing and I wasn’t performing either so that’s footy and I’m a Tiger now and I need to try and play some good footy for Madge.”
Once Naden had made the decision to join the Tigers, Maguire was quick to get him into the team and was more than happy with what he saw from the 26-year-old on Friday.
“I’m really looking forward to being able to look closer at Brent’s game and how he’ll fit into the connections of the combinations with our players. He’s going to be really good for us,” Maguire said post-match.
“Obviously how the group is evolving at the moment, and real credit to our leaders, we have faced a fair bit over the last couple of months but I’m really pleased how they have kept themselves together and now we are starting to show that on the field.
“Now we have to roll back up again this week and do it all again.”
Naden provides for Maumalo
That next challenge comes in the form of the Rabbitohs at Accor Stadium on Saturday, giving Naden a full week of training to gel with his new team-mates.
It’ll be a far cry from the bizarre build-up to his first game, when he was named in the Bulldogs team on Tuesday and then became a Tiger later the same day.
“It all happened so quick. The Tigers played on Sunday [against the Cowboys] so they had a couple of days off and then I went in on Wednesday and was meeting a lot of people and trying to remember all their names,” Naden said.
“It was all a bit of a shock but I had to prepare the best I could. On Monday I was at the Dogs and four days later I’m playing against them.
“It was great to play at Leichhardt in front a big crowd. The boys lifted for Alex Twal’s 100th game. They didn’t want to let him down or the fans.”