Former Bulldogs star Braith Anasta has accused Phil Gould of telling “lies” in another extraordinary development following the exit of Trent Barrett from Canterbury.
The club is in crisis following Barrett’s decision to quit on Monday following their Magic Round loss to Newcastle in Brisbane.
However, further revelations have now contradicted the club’s assertion that Barrett made the decision to leave, despite being contracted until the end of the 2023 season.
Foxsports.com.au first revealed Barrett walked away with a massive payout of $500,000.
The Daily Telegraph’s Phil Rothfield on Monday night told Fox League’s NRL 360 the terms of Barrett’s payout also includes a confidentiality agreement.
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Gould fronted the media on Monday after news of Barrett’s departure had been announced and said it was a “sad” day for the club, but stressed it was Barrett’s decision to walk.
He is now being accused of being the figure behind the scenes that told Barrett he would be sacked if he didn’t walk the plank of his own volition.
On May 2 Gould told a Channel 9 football show Barrett was the “long-term coach for the club”.
“Trent Barrett will be the coach of the Bulldogs long after I’m gone,” he said.
Two weeks later Barrett is unemployed.
Gould said two weeks ago there were agendas being driven against him surrounding his involvement with the club, but said, “It doesn’t affect me and I laugh in their face with it”.
Anasta said as host of NRL 360 Gould has been acting like “Pinocchio”.
“Well, you’re not laughing now Phil after saying that only a couple of weeks ago,” Anasta said.
“That’s Pinocchio there. Saying that his job is safe and that he’s going to be there long after Gus. He’s telling lies because Barrett’s gone and he’s still there.”
Anasta said reports that Barrett was unaware when news first broke about the club’s decision to hold an emergency board meeting shows Barrett didn’t really quit.
“It squashes the ‘I’m going to quit’ thing too because he didn’t even know he was going to get the chop,” Anasta said.
Fox League reporter James Hooper also said on the panel it was “hard to believe” that Gould had not been involved in the decision to tell Barrett his time was up.
The club had called an emergency board meeting to discuss the former Manly coach’s future on Monday, however Gould confirmed on Monday he had spoken with Barrett on Sunday before the former Dragons star’s exit was announced.
“The drums started beating after the Bulldogs were rolled by Canberra (in Round 9),” Hooper said.
“Behind the scenes, as I understand it, Baz was told, ‘You can walk or you’re going to be knifed’. Now it’s been framed as the board is behind this push, but I think it’s hard to believe how someone with the influence and clout that Gus carries in the game wasn’t involved in the decision.
“To be clear, Trent Barrett had a gun pointed at him and was told, ‘You either walk or it’s going to get ugly’.”
Barrett had won just five of the 34 games during his time at the club.
Rothfield also suggested Gould was the real reason Barrett was forced to leave the club.
“Do not fall for any suggestion that Trent Barrett walked out on his own,” he said.
He said Gould had “gone back on his word from two weeks ago” and said Gould did a similar thing when he sacked Anthony Griffin in 2018 in his role as the Panthers’ football operations supremo.
At the time the Panthers were sitting fifth on the ladder with four weeks left before the start of the finals. Rothfield said Gould went back on his word when Griffin was signed to a three-year-deal before being sacked in the first year of the deal.
Gould said he had a “difficult discussion” with Barrett
“When a coach feels like he needs to resign, we all feel like we’ve failed,” Gould told reporters on Monday afternoon.
“It was Trent’s decision. I certainly wasn’t going to sack him. It’s sad it’s come to this.
“I think the performances and pressure, he got the feeling he didn’t have the solutions for what was going wrong.
“That’s how he felt at the time. He made the decision on Sunday night.”
Gould said he spoke on the phone with Barrett on Sunday night where the former coach made the decision to quit.
“Late last night after I had finished the commentary on Nine, we had a long discussion, it was a very difficult discussion, it was pretty raw, he poured his heart out a bit, and he put his heart into this job.
“It’s sad the way it has ended. Hopefully he finds a bit of respite now and a bit of peace.
“He wanted to end the speculation and any pressure on the board to make a decision, so he took it upon himself (to resign).”
Two weeks earlier, Gould laughed off “childish” media speculation that Barrett’s job was under threat following his infamous takeover of a training Bulldogs session.
The Bulldogs have not qualified for a finals series since 2016, finishing 15th and 16th on the NRL ladder in 2020 and 2021 respectively.
It was hoped that high-profile recruits Matt Burton and Josh Addo-Carr would revive the cellar dwellers this season, but another wooden spoon seems imminent.
Paul Green, Shane Flanagan, Steve Price and Cameron Ciraldo have been touted as leading candidates to replace Barrett.
The Bulldogs will next face the Wests Tigers in a bottom of the table clash at Leichhardt Oval on Friday, with kick-off scheduled for 6pm AEST.