Saint, Sinner, Shoosh: Trent Barrett’s coaching return, Russell Crowe’s stadium backflip

Two years ago Accor Stadium was the ‘best football ground’ in Australia but now the Rabbitohs have been accused of an Olympic-class backflip. That and more in Australia’s premier sports gossip column.

Sacked Canterbury Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett has been interviewed to celebrate a shock comeback with the St. George-Illawarra Dragons.

The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that Barrett is shortlisted to join Anthony Griffin’s coaching staff next season as an assistant to become part of the club’s coaching staff.

Barrett met Dragons chief executive Ryan Webb last week as the club prepare to replace Peter Gentle, Mathew Head and James Graham, who have been axed in recent weeks.

Barrett played three seasons as a halfback for Illawarra and then eight years with the joint venture club before ending his playing career with the Sharks and retiring in 2010.

“There were a lot of people putting their hands up for the assistant jobs,” Webb said. “I know that Trent is held in high esteem as someone who is very good at connecting with players. He wouldn’t be shortlisted if he wasn’t highly regarded.

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“Does he have the qualities to compliment our coach? As an assistant, I think he does, so he’s definitely in the mix.

“It’s the manager’s team so it will be his decision. We’ll look at what we think he needs, and Hook will do the same.”

Barrett struggled in his two seasons as head coach with the Bulldogs, ending with just five wins from 34 games for a winning record 14.7 percent.

He was dropped by Bulldogs director of football Phil Gould with two years remaining on his contract.

Before that, however, Barrett did an excellent job as Ivan Cleary’s assistant at Penrith, helping to develop then-young playmakers Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai into Origin players and Grand Final winners.


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David Gallop had not been seen at NRL headquarters in Moore Park since he was unceremoniously – and unfairly – marched out by John Grant 10 years ago. We were in the area on Tuesday to see the new Allianz Stadium and found Gallop standing in front of the building. He also took part in a tour of the new stadium. It was Gallop who secured state government funding to build the impressive NRL headquarters on Driver Avenue more than a decade ago.

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The South Sydney Rabbitohs have been accused of performing an Olympic-class backflip over their decision to leave Accor Stadium from next season to join the Sydney Roosters at Moore Park.

For years their owners and officials have spoken of their membership relocation to Sydney’s western suburbs and the convenience of playing at the Sydney Olympic Park.

Former chief executive John Lee told The Sunday Telegraph: “Our Homebush deal has brought in a lot of new Souths members, mostly people who couldn’t afford to live downtown and who have moved to the western suburbs.

“The killer fact is that the Rabbitohs have more members going to Homebush than when we have a game in the eastern suburbs. Our fans vote with their feet.

“We’ve had our highest growth, 20 per cent year on year, outside of West Sydney.

“It’s the problem of proximity to having a venue with train connections and parking.”

Now they want to take action against the will of the state government and the Roosters, who have already put up their own “Home of the Sydney Roosters” signs on the outside of the new Allianz Stadium.

However, Souths boss Blake Solly denies it was a backflip.

“The point here is that the government backs down on a commitment to invest in Accor,” he said.

“Last Monday the government withdrew from these discussions.

“If they don’t invest in it, why should we?

“We actually believe in the site, but nobody else.”

“We have always said that if it were renovated we would love to be there and stay there. We want to stay there.”

Souths will remain under contract with Accor for all but three home games next year.

Venues NSW boss Tony Shepherd is trying to work on a compromise.

“We’re excited to be talking about bringing their three non-contract games to the new stadium,” he said, “we’ll see if we can fit them into the schedule.”

* * * * *

Garth Brennan can relate to the private pain of being an NRL coaching outcast.

In 2019, he was fired as the head coach of the Gold Coast Titans.

He has agreed to speak the week we tragically lost Paul Green.

“It’s tough,” he says, “Greeny went through a lot of shit losing the Cowboys and then the Maroons Origin job.

“It takes its toll. I always think of Trent Barrett and Michael Maguire, who also lost their jobs this year. It’s a print job and it’s very public.

“Everyone has an opinion, but there’s a human component that we all need to think about.

“At the end of the day, these guys have families and they lost their jobs. It can be very stressful.

“And sometimes when they’re at their lowest, they get kicked when they’re down.”

Brennan admits he made it difficult. He was unavailable for months.

“Things were said about me that hurt. It was f. hard. I locked things up and locked them up.

“In a way, I was prepared by my old job in the police force.

“I’ve seen things no one should ever see.

“To have to tell parents that their children died in a car accident. stuff like this.

“This is the next level hard. Yes, I lost my job with the Titans, but I’ve been through worse.”

After his release, Brennan stayed on the Gold Coast for the rest of the year while his daughter completed her HSC.

He then fled to New Zealand with his wife for a holiday.

Some special people have reached out.

“People like Flanno (Shane Flanagan), Ivan Cleary and Gus Worland came forward,” he said.

“It was nice to know that people cared about it. It was really. It has helped me so much.”

* * * * *

One of the reasons for the North Queensland Cowboys’ success this season was the team’s incredible discipline.

Records show they are the only club in the competition without a player being suspended this year. This has meant manager Todd Payten has had to field just 25 players this year, the fewest of any club.

The Cronulla Sharks were the worst offenders on the Match Review Committee. They lost players for nine weeks.

* * * * *

Troubled ex-cricketer Stuart MacGill was a surprise guest at the Chappell Foundation fundraiser at the Sydney Cricket Ground last week.

It was one of the few times he has been seen in public since he was the victim of an alleged kidnapping and assault over an alleged drug transaction earlier this year.

It was a big night at the SCG to raise money for the homeless.

Test Captain Pat Cummins was the guest speaker, with audience heavyweights including ex-PM John Howard, John Singleton, John Coates, Todd Greenberg and James Sutherland.

* * * * *

It’s not just rugby league that has fallen victim to a Stuart Ayres backflip over stadium funding. Ayres’ office pledged $33 million over three years to the Sydney Dragway for track improvements in 2017. They received the initial payment of $11 million but haven’t received a penny since.

* * * * *

A few elementary school boys from the eastern suburbs know how it pays to be honest.

Ten-year-olds Sam Crawford and Ollie O’Donnell recently found a credit card belonging to Roosters star Lachlan Lam on a street in the eastern suburbs.

They took it home and their parents contacted the club to arrange for the young halfback to have his card back.

He rewarded the boys for their honesty with signed Sydney Roosters shirts and a free meal at the Easts Leagues Club.

Lam is now heading to the UK to continue his Super League career at Leigh Centurions, the club his father Adrian coaches.

* * * * *

Veteran 2GB footy caller Ray Hadley will never miss a great game or moment in sports history.

He will announce the first game at the new Allianz Stadium on September 2nd for the continuous call team from the magnificent New Media facilities at Moore Park.

Hadley called the last grand final at the SCG in 1987 and the first grand final at the new Sydney Football Stadium the following year.

He also officiated the first game at the Sydney Olympic Stadium in Homebush, a double header in March 1999 and the Dragons-Storm grand final later that year.

Originally published as Saint, Sinner, Shoosh: Trent Barrett’s Coach Return, Russell Crowe’s Stadium Backflip Saint, Sinner, Shoosh: Trent Barrett’s coaching return, Russell Crowe’s stadium backflip

Nate Jones

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