NRL Expert @JennaBrooks
NRL Talking Points: Trent Barrett to leave Sea Eagles, while Ben Barba may be heading back home
Last Updated: 14/08/18 2:45pm
Jenna Brooks has the latest from the NRL as Trent Barrett drops a bombshell, Ben Barba's move down under gathers momentum, and Gareth Widdop suffers injury. Plus the latest on Wayne Bennett's future….
Manly head coach Trent Barrett is set to walk away from the Sea Eagles at the end of the season, with an official announcement expected on Wednesday.
After extending his deal last year, Barrett was contracted to the club until 2020, but reports suggest the former Wigan playmaker has been unhappy with the lack of resources. Manly are 12th on the ladder, having won seven of their 21 games this season.
With news last week of Anthony Griffin's sacking, Barrett - who was a former assistant at Penrith - is now one of the favourites to take charge at the Panthers.
Wayne Bennett's future has been the topic of conversation for the best part of 2018. He is the most successful coach in rugby league, winning a total of seven premierships, but earlier this year the club attempted to sign Melbourne Storm head coach Craig Bellamy on a four-year deal once Bennett's contract was up.
It's believed it was this attempt that left the Brisbane boss eager to move on at the end of this season, despite still having another year left on his contract.
Bennett has spent a total of 25 years - over two spells, coaching Brisbane, leading them to all six of their premierships, but it's understood the England head coach has asked his agent to start looking for other opportunities in the NRL.
Reports in Australia have the veteran coach linked with a number of clubs - Penrith, St George Illawarra, Parramatta and the Titans.
At this stage, it looks like we will have to wait until October to find out where Bennett's future lies, with the club expected to make a decision at a board meeting at the end of the season.
Since the start of the season, when Super League fans were treated to the Ben Barba that helped Cronulla win a premiership in 2016, rumours circulated the star full-back was set for a return to the NRL.
Despite St Helens remaining quiet, reports in Australia state the former Dally M Medal winner has been granted an early release by the club and is headed back to the NRL at the end of the season.
Barba's former club Cronulla were favourites to sign him, after coach Shane Flanagan said earlier this year they would welcome him back.
But this week Flanagan has ruled out a Barba return to the Sharks next year, insisting their focus was on retaining current full-back Valentine Holmes.
"Benny was a fantastic player for us, he will always be remembered for what he did for us in 2016 - it was a stellar season, he was outstanding," Flanagan said.
"But we have a salary cap and money doesn't grow on trees. We've invested in a couple of other players within our squad and we'd like to see Valentine (Holmes) stay there long term."
This year Barba returned to pre-season training earlier than his team-mates, and his form speaks for itself - he is the league's top try scorer with 24 and has 22 try assists.
He's been a fantastic addition to the St Helens club, and Super League as a whole. It would be tough to see him go.
St George Illawarra suffered a fifth defeat in six weeks, but the embarrassing 40-4 loss to the last-placed Eels was not the only disappointment.
Captain Gareth Widdop suffered what was feared to be a season-ending shoulder injury. However initial scans have revealed the England international could be back in time for the finals.
"At this stage, it's looking like three to six weeks," Coach Paul McGregor told Fairfax Media.
Widdop was forced from the pitch during the first half on Saturday night, after suffering a dislocated shoulder when he landed awkwardly. A big blow to a side who are already without Paul Vaughan and Jason Nightingale, who is sidelined with a neck injury.
The defeat saw the Dragons slip out of the top four for the first time this season, and many have called for McGregor's sacking.
"No it doesn't (get much worse) to be honest," said McGregor. "That scoreline is very ugly. "Definitely [not good enough]. What I say in the shed should stay in the shed. We've got a few players down on confidence. That can happen. So we've got to make sure we manage that well. We re-group and get to work because that's not acceptable."
In the final three games of the regular season, the Dragons face the Wests Tigers, Bulldogs and Newcastle - all three teams outside the top eight.