2014: ROUND 1

vs Brisbane

Match Details
Match Date 7th Mar, 2014
Opponent Brisbane
Result Loss
Coach Des Hasler
Captain Michael Ennis
Venue Homebush (ANZ Stadium)
Crowd 18,040
Referee Shayne Hayne
Chris James

Ben Barba’s successful return to ANZ Stadium against his former club highlighted the size of the hole he has left at Canterbury rather than the one he has filled at Brisbane.

The one-time Bulldogs poster boy was always coming to come back and bite the club that granted him a release on compassionate grounds, but coach Des Hasler will be more concerned about what his side dished up without him in the 18-12 loss on Friday night.

While Sam Perrett didn’t disgrace himself, there is no doubt Hasler will be scratching his head wondering where he is going to find the spark at the back his team so desperately requires. His halfback, Trent Hodkinson, is a good organiser, while Josh Reynolds is a renowned runner of the football.

It’s not that Barba is irreplaceable, but the role he played for Canterbury is vital to the team’s success. They need a player who can create something from nothing.

Without it, the Bulldogs looked disjointed and asked very few questions of the Broncos’ defence, despite ample opportunities close to the try line.

Much of the talk leading into the match surrounded the hostile reception Barba was expected to receive from the fans and former teammates alike. While he was still some way short of the player that set the competition alight two seasons ago, he left enemy territory with a smile from ear to ear after playing a part in his new side’s victorious start to the year.

‘‘It was a bit emotional coming back but it was good to get it out of the way so now I can get on with the rest of the season now,’’ Barba said afterwards. ‘‘It was good to start strong. I always wanted to start with confidence and get a bit of a break and do something a bit special to get my mind over the nerves.’’

Hasler would have ordered his troops not to give Barba any space, and for his first touch they did exactly that. They swarmed in on him like – to borrow the description of the Australian cricket team by Faf du Plessis – a pack of dogs, smothering their former teammate in a rugby-like maul trying to push him back into the in-goal area. 

But on a ground where he has scored 40 tries in his past 49 appearances, Barba turned provider to put Dale Copley in for the first try of the night after seven minutes. Josh Morris’s decision to rush out of the line opened up the space for Barba to grubber behind the line for a charging Copley to score.

Daniel Vidot then doubled the Broncos’ lead when he crashed over debutant Corey Thompson, before Ben Hunt took the Broncos out to a 14-0 lead with a penalty goal from close range.

The Bulldogs couldn’t find a way through the Broncos’ defence, so Morris decided to go over it, leaping above the pack with a mark that was as good as anything you’ll see Buddy Franklin do for the Sydney Swans this year.

Trailing 14-6 at the break, the Bulldogs scored first courtesy of the barnstorming Tony Williams, who ran over the top of Josh Hoffman to reduce the deficit to only two points.

Dale Finucane should have put the Bulldogs in front but he spilled the ball with the line wide open. Lachlan Maranta then ended Canterbury’s hopes of a come-from-behind victory, scoring in the corner in the closing stages.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

Player Position Tries Goals F Goals Points
Sam Perrett Fullback 0 0 0 0
Mitch Brown Wing 0 0 0 0
Corey Thompson Wing 0 0 0 0
Josh Morris Centre 1 0 0 4
Chase Stanley Centre 0 0 0 0
Josh Reynolds Five Eighth 0 0 0 0
Trent Hodkinson Half Back 0 2 0 4
Dale Finucane Lock 0 0 0 0
Tony Williams Second Row 1 0 0 4
Frank Pritchard Second Row 0 0 0 0
James Graham Front Row 0 0 0 0
Aiden Tolman Front Row 0 0 0 0
Michael Ennis Hooker 0 0 0 0
Josh Jackson Replacement 0 0 0 0
Pat O'Hanlon Replacement 0 0 0 0
Tim Browne Replacement 0 0 0 0
David Klemmer Replacement 0 0 0 0
Total: 2 2 0 12