Patten still has faith in Bulldogs, despite Barba loss

RUGBY LEAGUE 

Canterbury chief executive Todd Greenberg has been widely praised for his handling of Ben Barba's fall from grace, but how will Des Hasler deal with the superstar's absence when the NRL season kicks off?

Barba was a sensation last year, scoring 22 tries to be the competition's leading scorer and capture the Dally M Medal.

Now little more than a week out from the first game against North Queensland at ANZ Stadium, Hasler has to change his attacking blueprint in a hurry, as the 23-year-old takes time to come to terms with some personal issues.

The man Barba took over the Bulldogs No 1 jersey from, "the general" Luke Patten, reckons Canterbury have the talent to fill the void and still be a premiership contender.

MORE: 'Ill' Barba sidelined indefinitely

However, he admits it may take the 2012 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," he 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 came from 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 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.

Recruited from the Raiders, Drury Low has emerged as a likely candidate to replace Barba in the meantime, while former Roosters player Sam Perrett and winger Steve Turner are other contenders.

Patten points to 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, coach 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.

"I've heard good things about Drury. 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 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 in 2008.

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