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General's consensus: Barba's time away could help team


Tim Barrow

"In a weird sort of way it might help them, but it depends on if and when he comes back this season" ... Luke Patten on Ben Barba.

"In a weird sort of way it might help them, but it depends on if and when he comes back this season" ... Luke Patten on Ben Barba. Photo: Getty Images

LUKE PATTEN, the man replaced by Ben Barba in Canterbury's No.1 jersey, believes the side has the talent to fill the void left by the Dally M winner and still be a premiership contender.

But he admits it may take last year's grand finalists some time to adjust.

"In a weird sort of way it might help them, but it depends on if and when he comes back this season," Patten said. "You want [Barba] to be there and at his best, but that isn't possible at the moment.

"However, he might just come back with a point to prove.

"Teams go through lulls during a season and if he comes in fresh halfway through and the Dogs are still in contention, it could be just what they need."

Barba left the field in a trial against Canberra in Goulburn on Saturday, citing a lack of interest in playing.

It came after a number of drinking and gambling incidents, which led club boss Todd Greenberg to describe Barba as in need of "professional help" and stems from the split with his long-term partner Ainslie Currie, with whom he has two children.

Former Roosters player Sam Perrett and winger Steve Turner are at the top of the list of fullback replacements, but Patten points to coach Des Hasler's impressive arsenal of damaging forwards as the key to ensuring Canterbury remain a force to be reckoned with.

In his first year in charge, Hasler introduced a fast, short-passing and tip-on style of play through the forwards, allowing the likes of Frank Pritchard, Sam Kasiano and emerging star Josh Jackson to wreak havoc on either side of the ruck.

"I think the best way to negate Barba not being there is play through the forwards and not use the fullback as much," Patten said.

"Perrett and Turner are both good players and can cover the position, but it's obviously going to change a lot after training with Ben at the back for the past year or so.

"The Bulldogs are strong enough to manage the loss of Benny, you just want him to come out the other side of this for the good of himself and the club."

Patten played 225 games for the Bulldogs after starting his career with the Illawarra Steelers and St George Illawarra.

He endured the 2002 salary cap scandal, as well as the Coffs Harbour sexual assault furore and Sonny Bill Williams walking out on the club.

Returning from two years in the Super League with Salford, Patten is now a video referee, making his debut in the box in last Friday night's Charity Shield game.

A three-time Country Origin representative, Patten narrowly missed out on NSW selection to Brett Hodgson in 2002.

Barba scored three tries for the Indigenous All Stars earlier this month and seemed an irresistible selection for Queensland this year.

After often being the mouthpiece for the Bulldogs during tumultuous times, Patten said Greenberg continues to enhance Canterbury's reputation by being proactive with Barba.

"He's handled it really well," Patten said. "I've always said [Greenberg's] been the best signing the club has made in years.

"It's a strange scenario, but the way it's been dealt with is a credit to the club."

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