Barba can expect tough reception: Price
Canterbury legend Steve Price says Ben Barba’s possible first round NRL matchup with the Bulldogs next season could garner a similar reaction to that which Sonny Bill Williams was given in his first game against the blue and whites.
With the NRL draw to be released on Wednesday, rumours are rife Barba’s Brisbane will meet the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium in the season’s first Friday night fixture as part of a blockbuster opening to the 2014 premiership.
Barba’s departure from Belmore wasn’t as controversial as Williams’ departure in 2008 but was greeted acrimoniously by certain sections of the Bulldogs Army.
Price said Barba could expect to receive a cool welcome from Bulldogs fans in a backhanded compliment for what he did for the club, similar to what Williams was given when he turned out against his former club in Roosters colours earlier this year.
“Benny was much loved by Bulldogs supporters, I’m sure they were sad to see him go,” Price said.
“Most people I think would understand why he left but they will rip into him.
“But he won’t let it worry him, he will just go out there and play his footy.
“As a player I would rather it was the first game, you get into it and move on.”
The probable Canterbury v Brisbane match on Friday March 7 will likely follow the Thursday night opener between bitter rivals South Sydney and Sydney Roosters at the same venue as the tricolours begin their premiership defence.
Other round one talking points include:
– Sam Tomkins’ first game for the Warriors
– William Hopoate’s first NRL game in over two years for Parramatta
– How Manly will respond to their grand final loss and;
– How Eric Grothe will perform in what will be his first game of NRL after three years of retirement if he turns out for Cronulla in a slated Monday night fixture.
Much focus will be on Jamie Soward’s first game for Penrith and a new-look St George-Illawarra outfit led by under siege coach Steve Price.
Gold Coast mentor John Cartwright will be keen for a good start to the season after a few lean years with former North Queensland coach Neil Henry alongside him in an assistant’s role.
Rookie coach Paul Green will coach the Cowboys in his first NRL game and Ricky Stuart returns to Canberra in a bid to reinvigorate the club with whom he won three premierships.
The ARL Commission has already confirmed the State of Origin dates for next season as 28 May (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane), 18 June (ANZ Stadium, Sydney), and 9 July (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane).