Barrett’s pick to lead Bulldogs revival
After four years in the wilderness, Canterbury finally look to be turning a corner as the Trent Barrett era begins in earnest at Belmore.
With an impressive recruitment drive for 2021, there's signs of life for the club for the first time in a while and Barrett has given exclusive insight on how new signings Nick Cotric, Kyle Flanagan and Corey Allan will fit in to the Bulldogs side and just what he's trying to build at Canterbury.
It seems clear, from the outside looking in, from the signings the club has made that players are buying into what you're trying to build at Canterbury, but what is that exactly? What do you want Trent Barrett's Bulldogs to look like?
What we're trying to do is build a team that's sustainable and one that can play together for a long time. You can see from the age bracket we've targeted and the positions we've targeted, particularly in our spine with Kyle Flanagan, Matt Burton in 12 months time, Corey Allan coming in at one - they're all young, they're all 20, 21 years old. They're going to be able to grow together and we can build the team around the skill set of those blokes. Nick Cotric coming in as well, he's around the same age and he gives us something different on an edge. Corey Waddell is reliable, pretty underrated and skilful and he's only 23, Jack Hetherington is a bit the same. They're all different but they're all pieces of the puzzle we think we can build a team around and add to the good players we already have here. We have plenty of experience in Will Hopoate, Luke Thompson and Josh Jackson, Dallin is still only 25 and Hoppa is only 29. Hopefully we can keep adding quality and keep them together for a long time.
How have you found this initial part of the pre-season? What's really stood out to you over the summer?
Their attitude. They work hard, they don't whinge and they do whatever is asked of them. As a coach, that's all you can ask for. They all get on really well, it's a good group and there's no egos there. They're looking to improve, which makes our job easier. It's been really good.
It's good you mention attitude - Canterbury have had a tough couple of years but their effort has never waned, even when things got difficult. It seems to me there's already something to build on.
Exactly. It's a very proud club and the players are very aware of the history and fabric of the place and what it's been built on. It's been built on hard work and toughness and I think the group showed that in a lot of their performances last year - even if they were on the wrong end of the scoreboard they never gave up. That's one thing you need in football teams and we're working hard in other areas to improve but that's something we never want to lose. It's something the Bulldogs have been renowned for and we need to uphold that.
You mentioned Kyle Flanagan earlier. He's joined the club after a rollercoaster season at the Roosters. What do you want to see from him? What do you want to bring out of Kyle Flanagan's game?
I've been a fan of Kyle for a long time. He's got a really good skill set to be a dominant halfback. He's a game manager, he's got a good kick, a good pass, he's not small and he's put some size on over the off-season. He can manage a game, he's an out and out halfback and he's the style of halfback that I like. We've signed players around him that will compliment his skill set - we have a runner here in the moment in Jake Averillo, we've got a runner in Burton coming in 12 months, we've got a runner in Corey Allan and there's some edge backrowers in Adam Elliott, Raymond Faitala-Mariner and Waddell who will compliment Kyle. The guts of what we're putting together, I'm happy with it. I'm really happy with how Kyle is going, he's a good kid, he's well-respected and he's a tough kid. He's earnt the respect of the group with how he's trained over the past two months. I'm really looking forward to watching him play and keep developing - he's only young, this is just his second pre-season. We have to remind ourselves we're not getting the finished product, it's our job to keep improving the players and working hard with them.
When you talk about building the roster like that it seems like the pieces are starting to come together, but what's the key to fitting them all together and giving them the confidence they need to go out there and succeed? How do you instil that in them?
I think it's important they see we have a plan and I think we've displayed that over the past three months with what we've done in and around here at Belmore and with the signings we've made. We have a clear plan of the style of football we want to play and how we want to defend, and we'll recruit accordingly. That gives the players confidence, knowing they've been specifically targeted to come to the club. It's a big club, Canterbury, and I think the players, once they've been here a while, appreciate how great a club this is. I certainly realised it over the past three months.
What are you expecting Corey Allan to bring at fullback?
He's just another class player. We have Nick Meaney there as well, he's a very skilful player and he had a good pre-season so we have some options but Corey is an out and out fullback and an athlete. He's a big body, he's fast, he's got really good skill and he can execute a pass. He's got all the attributes that I was looking for in a fullback and he's only young. More importantly, he's a good bloke and a competitor. That was pretty evident in the meeting we had. He's fitted in really well.
Nick Cotric signed before you came to the club but he's probably the highest-profile recruit the Bulldogs have made in some time. Are you looking to play him at centre or wing?
We've got a few options with Nick. He's learned his trade on the wing but he came through the juniors as a centre. We're jiggling a few things around at the moment, with Hopoate, Dallin, Nick, Tui Katoa, Corey Allan and Nick Meaney we have plenty of options there. We'll keep tinkering with a few things but we're pretty settled with what our edges will look like. Nick's just an athlete, he's extremely powerful and hard to handle and he breaks tackles. That's what he'll bring to the club and that's what we're looking for.
We've spoken plenty about the players you've recruited but there's still some big names at the club already. Dylan Napa has had a tough couple of seasons, what's the key to getting the best out of him and getting him to play some of the football we saw in his Roosters days?
Dylan is going well. He had a cleanout of his knee so he's only just come back to running, but his attitude has been terrific and he's been training really hard even when he was off-legs. He's become a really good leader actually, over the last few months. I think the more responsibility you give Naps, like a lot of blokes, he'll rise to the occasion. I think that's been the case for Dylan. He looks really good, he seems happy and he's training well. He's really important for us, he's a senior player and you don't play Origin if you're not a good player. We just need to get him going again and getting back to the footy we know he can play.
From a personal standpoint, what's the biggest lesson you take into this job from your previous time as a head coach over at Manly?
It's probably hard to narrow it down to one. You get a hell of a lot of lessons along the way, but staying present on the task at hand - being the head coach there's a lot of moving parts, but your main focus is still to coach. Being able to structure your day and staying focused on what is the most important thing at that moment, that's something I've worked really hard with as well as getting a good coaching team around me. I'm really happy with how that's going. I've got a very supportive board and had a lot of support from our administration. There were a lot of lessons learned, probably too many to mention, but it's all going well.
Originally published as Barrett's pick to lead Bulldogs revival