“The thing with Gus is he gets things done. He’s a doer and he doesn’t muck around when he does it. Gus is going to bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to that as well.”
Barrett said Canterbury’s challenge was slightly different to the one he faced at Penrith due to the differences in demographics and junior pathways, but predicted a similar turnaround.
“We are very lucky here, similar to Penrith, in that we have a very financially powerful club,” he said.
“The leagues club is doing well and we’re well supported by the leagues club, we have a good board there that’s all on the same page.
“[Chairman] John Khoury and [chief executive] Aaron [Warburton] have done a good job with this one, the board has been solid, there’s a clear picture of where we wanted to go. They got their man in the end.”
When Barrett was first approached about the Bulldogs coaching role, Gould warned him against it, labelling the culture “toxic”. Reminded of those comments, Barrett chuckled: “Me and Gus speak a lot.
“It will be good to be back together. We spent a lot of time at Penrith in the early days and spent some time back there when he wasn’t there. It will be good to work with him again.
“He can attract players, he knows how to get them.
“He’s got terrific relationships with everybody through the game to managers, to media, to other coaches and players. He’s been around a long time and there are a lot of pluses that he brings.”
Star forward Viliame Kikau was lured to Penrith from North Queensland by Gould and looms as an obvious key signing target for the Bulldogs. Kikau, Api Koroisau and Dylan Edwards are the big-name Panthers off contract at the end of next season and Canterbury have the salary cap space to accommodate Kikau, who could command as much as $1 million a season.
However, Panthers chairman Dave O’Neill said the bulk of the club’s roster was locked away for next year and they were now in the position where players would take a little less money to play with the likes of Nathan Cleary and in a successful side.
“We’re not worried about any poaching because we’ve got 90 per cent of our roster locked in and we’re pretty secure,” O’Neill said.
“We’ve worked hard the last 18 months to get our cap and roster in order. We’re now in the position players might sign for a little less because they want to play with Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, James Fisher-Harris and guys like that.
“The same thing happened with Melbourne and those great Brisbane sides.
“I’m happy for Gus. It’s great to see him back at the Bulldogs. I’m sure he’ll do an excellent job rebuilding their pathways system. It can only be good for the league the Bulldogs are back concentrating on junior pathways and development.”
Warriors chief executive Cameron George was not upset with Gould – “in no way shape or form are we dark on Gus” – and said he was more frustrated with COVID making it difficult for his staff to complete their job.
“I rate Gus as a human so highly,” George said. “He goes with our blessing. Our loss to COVID is the Bulldogs’ gain. There is only one Phil Gould and you don’t try to replicate that.
“It would have been great to have Gus on the bus, so to speak, but those restrictions outweigh what we’re able to do.
“Don’t worry, we will try to beat him. I want him looking over his shoulder at the Warriors for the rest of his working career now.”