Claiming they’ve moved on, Penrith are playing down the Trent Barrett factor as the 2020 NRL grand finalists prepare to go head to head with their esteemed ex-attacking coach on Saturday.
After helping transform the Panthers into, statistically, the second-most potent team in the league last year, Barrett has taken charge of Canterbury, on paper the NRL’s second-worst offensive outfit in 2020.
Not surprisingly then, Barrett’s history with the Panthers is dominating the lead-up to the Bulldogs’ round-two clash at Bankwest Stadium.
But while Penrith are respectfully giving Barrett his dues for his role in last year’s run to the title decider, big guns Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo and Stephen Crichton are equally unfazed about the former Test and State of Origin star’s influence this weekend.
Cleary even went as far as saying Penrith’s much-less heralded new attack coach, Andrew Webster, had already offered “the same” as Barrett had during his stint at the club.
Cleary conceded the Panthers were disappointed to have “left a few tries out there” in a season-opening 24-0 win over North Queensland but denied lacking the attacking polish because Barrett had departed.
“I’ve said it numerous times, ‘Baz’ helped me out a lot,” Cleary said on Tuesday.
“Coming through, I’ve had a lot of coaches who have helped me out a lot. Cameron Ciraldo here has helped me out massively.
“Peter Wallace and even ‘Webby’ this year has been really good for me.
“So I’ve been very blessed with the coaches I’ve had coming through and developing my game – and ‘Baz’ did that last year but ‘Webby’ has been the same this year.
“I’m very lucky.”
Crichton said Barrett “was really good at picking out weak spots in teams so our defensive system is trying to work around that”.
“We have missed him,” he said.
“But a lot of the older boys like Nathan Cleary and Isaah Yeo and that have stepped up that level to bring our attack to a better spot this year.
“We’ve got a new attacking coach, too – ‘Webby’ – and he’s just on the back of what we know.”
Yeo admitted coach Ivan Cleary was disappointed with Penrith’s attack against the Cowboys but said the media were making more out of Barrett’s absence, and his move to the opposition, than it should.
“I’m sure he’s got a fair scouting report on all of us and he’s probably got a game plan to try and stop us doing things, but we’ve just got to make sure we’re doing it better,” Yeo said.
Playmaker Cleary agreed.
“The way football is now these days with everything on TV and stuff like that, a lot of teams know a lot about the way you play anyway,” Cleary said.
“Baz probably more so than others.
“But, again, it just poses a challenge to myself and the rest of the boys.
“It probably is a little bit of an advantage to them, but it’s a challenge that we need to overcome.”