If Manly do pull the trigger on coach Geoff Toovey in favour of Penrith assistant Trent Barrett, they’ll get one of the best up and coming coaches in the game.
That’s the opinion of current Panthers players, who have declared the former Dragon ready to step into an NRL head coaching gig.
Pressure continues to mount on Toovey as his team struggles to pull itself from the bottom of the NRL ladder, with their latest defeat in Townsville the seventh loss in their past nine games.
And should hierarchy decide to axe the club legend, they could do worse than take Barrett from the Penrith stable.
“He’s a great coach. They’d be lucky to have him,” Panthers second-rower Isaah Yeo said on Monday.
“But I hope he stays here. He’s helped all the boys, especially us younger players in our attacking roles.
“He’s our brains behind most things, especially in all our attacking sets … he’d be a huge loss for the club.”
Barrett, 37, has coached the NSW Country side for the past two years.
He was Penrith’s under-20s coach last year before being promoted to Ivan Cleary’s assistant this season.
Club skipper Peter Wallace said Barrett’s main strength is his man-management and ability to relate to the current generation of footballers.
Asked what he brings to an NRL team, he said: “Obviously a wealth of experience, being a half as well. He’s great. A lot to learn off. Really good bloke, too.
“Obviously he did a good job last year in the -20s and he’s come in and done a lot with our attack.
“Out on the field too, you learn a lot from him. He still looks like he could probably play, he gets around pretty well. Just how approachable he is, that side of things … he’ll make a really good coach.”
Manly declined to comment on their current coaching situation, but Panthers boss Phil Gould told ABC Grandstand that the club would not stand in the way of any of their coaches accepting top jobs with rival teams – including Manly.
“That’s up to Manly. Manly have got to sort their situation out, what they’re doing with their coaching future and their players,” he said.
“We’ve got a number of coaches at our club that I think could coach NRL at any club at any time and we understand that they’re going to get offers from any time.
“I would never stand in the way of any coach in our club – be it David Fairleigh, be it Garth Brennan, be it Trent Barrett, be it Alex Melville – of coaching at another club if an NRL job became available.”