The cut-throat world of NRL coaching is undeniably brutal, with former Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett becoming the latest mentor to be shown the door just 18 months into a three-year tenure. All coaches are hired with the greatest of intentions, but as is often said, professional sport is a results driven business and at an absolute bare minimum, a new coach has to show some semblance of improvement with the team he takes over.
The Bulldogs under the tutelage of Trent Barrett simply failed to do just that. They never got any better.
During his first year in the job, Barrett carried every new coach's excuse that he was dealing with the previous administration's players. Disturbingly still, the team finished in a worse position than the same group had the year before under Dean Pay. All would have been forgiven in his second year, as he added some key playing pieces, if only there were any signs of improvement.
Yet the Bulldogs are again rooted to the bottom of the ladder, having just two wins for the season and taking to the field every week with the same dysfunctional style of play that has commentators laughing and fans shrinking in embarrassment. In the second halves of their last two losses to the Raiders and Knights they were unable to make any forays into opposition territory.
Barrett came from the Panthers with a reputation for being an attacking-focused coach of some note. He was credited with the Panthers' rise to premiership glory, yet in 18 months with the Bulldogs he has taken the club to an all-time low in points scoring. With ten games gone in the 2022 season, the Bulldogs have yet to bring up 100 points.
Not only has the team lacked a noticeable game plan or any perceivable attacking structure, Barrett has persisted with some strange selection policies. It took him an eternity to bring Aaron Schoup into the team, a player who not only finished last season strongly, but has been one of the best players since his inclusion. Barret spent weeks trying firstly to turn Jake Averillo into a starting halfback, before turning to Brandon Wakeham, before reluctantly accepting that Kyle Flanagan could be his best option.
The clunkiness of the Bulldogs attack clearly stems from the slow service delivered by dummy-half Jeremy Marshall-King and yet despite having other options, Barrett has persisted with the No.9 ahead of the arrival of Reed Mahoney next year. Barrett has also unsuccessfully tried to use veteran back-rower Josh Jackson in the ball-playing role so brilliantly mastered by Isaac Yeo at the Panthers. Jackson is not Yeo and yet he takes the ball at first receiver far too often when the Bulldogs are mounting their feeble attacks.
Barrett continued to pick the same underperforming players in a relentless, lemming-like, procession towards his own coaching demise.
It takes a special kind of optimism for a rugby league player to envisage a career in coaching once his boots are collecting dust in the cupboard. The list is long of great players who failed to make the transition. Often the best coaches managed only mediocre playing careers, but picked up enough along the way, coupled with an inherent ability to inspire and manage a playing group, to go onto successful and rarely lengthy careers.
The departure of Barrett is no surprise to long-suffering fans of the club. They have, in fact, been calling for it. No one was expecting a premiership in his first three years, and few expected to see the proud club playing finals; everyone wanted to believe that he was taking the team in the right direction, giving fans hope of a brighter future.
But Barrett couldn't even manage that, and it has cost him his job as a result.