Inside Penrith knowledge no help for Dogs

Scott Bailey |

Trent Barrett won’t fool himself into thinking that inside knowledge alone will be enough when it comes to beating Penrith.

Because if it did, his Canterbury side should be best placed of team this year to knock off the undefeated NRL defending premiers.

Under pressure and in the spotlight amid Kyle Flanagan’s recall, it was in two separate stints at Penrith that Barrett earned the credentials for two stints as a head coach.

And it’s easy to forget that two years ago, Barrett was the mastermind of Penrith’s world-beating attack.

With Barrett as an assistant coach, Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai were able to make the most use of the new set-restart rule.

Several of the Panthers were also brought to the club by Phil Gould, now the general manager of the Bulldogs who will watch Sunday’s game from isolation after contracting COVID-19.

In Matt Burton, the Bulldogs also have a key member of Penrith’s attack last year, having filled in at halfback in 2021 while also named Dally M centre of the year.

Tevita Pangai also fitted in seamlessly at the end of last season, while Brent Naden debuted there and Braidon Burns and Corey Waddell also once called Penrith home.

But Barrett won’t for a second believe any of that will help on Sunday.

“It gives us a bit of insight, but everyone has known pretty well what they’re doing for the past three years,” Barrett said.

“But it’s a different thing to stop it.

“They’ve got some really good players. Even the young kids they have brought into the team are doing really well.

“Taylan (May) is a really good player, so is (Izack) Tago.”

If anything, Barrett believes Penrith are now a harder side to pick apart than when he was there for their record 17 straight wins in 2020.

“They’re probably a better side,” Barrett said. 

“They’ve developed over the last three years into what they are. They’re the premiers for a reason. 

“Particularly good defensively and they’re hard to break down. A lot of good players there who we know well.”

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary says his club’s work developing Burton gave them some advantage against the five-eighth.

“We’ve obviously got a pretty good knowledge of Burto and what his strengths and weaknesses are,” Cleary said. 

“We know the threats he possesses and some of the guys too.”

But he won’t for a second accept the thought his defending premiers deserve outright favouritism against last year’s wooden-spooners.

“I don’t think it’s a mismatch on paper,” he said. 

“Have a look at their team. They have some pretty good players and have had a pretty good year.”