NRL Round Table: Barrett doubts, Reynolds to Broncos and Blues selections

Each week ESPN's resident NRL experts will take a look at the burning issues in rugby league and try to come up with the answers. Their opinions might not match yours, but they should certainly spark further debate on the latest conundrums facing the game we all love.

Have the Bulldogs reached such a low point that questions have to be asked of Trent Barrett?

Lucie: No doubt Trent Barrett had his work cut out to ignite the Bulldogs' attack when he took on the daunting task of Canterbury coach. His arrival laid the foundations of another rebuild, beginning with optimism around the signings of Kyle Flanagan and Nick Cotric. But nine matches in, it's the same old story that's been told by the Bulldogs for the past few seasons. The stats do not make happy reading. Despite having an improved roster and an attacking-minded coach, the Bulldogs are only one from nine - the same as this time last season. They've been held scoreless three times, becoming the second team in the NRL era to do so in consecutive matches. The so-called rebuild is no longer an excuse when there's no improvement and records fall. Questions have to be asked for the short-term, what can Barrett do to avoid the wooden spoon? With the likes of Josh Addo-Carr, Matt Burton and Brent Naden joining the club next season, what can the coach do to develop the team for their arrival? Can he ignite Canterbury's forwards to support Flanagan, who is only 38 matches into his NRL career, and the halfback's game itself? Barrett always faced a difficult task in his early days as Canterbury coach, but there's cause for concern when the Bulldogs hit another low.

Darren: Serious doubts are starting to surface about the coaching ability of Trent Barrett and the immediate future of the Bulldogs. This week he dropped Kyle Flanagan and allowed the young half to front the media on the same day. The last thing Flanagan needed was to be thrown to the media wolves. He should have been working on his game under the expert guidance of Barrett, who was an international half himself and who came across from Penrith with a reputation for being a brilliant attacking coach. Anyone who has watched as many Bulldogs games this year as I have will tell you that they have gone backwards from where they were last year. They were absolutely clueless with the ball in 2020, and, as hard as it might be to believe, they are even worse this year under Barrett's tutelage. Regardless of the players at his disposal, you would think Barrett could have at least taught them some set plays for the opponent's 20 metre zone. They might not have the execution ability of Panthers stars Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai, but anything has to be better than their current method, which is to stumble around until putting in an ineffective kick on the last. Bulldogs fans have been fed the promise of next year's arrival of Matt Burton, Josh Addo-Carr and Brent Naden, but they really need to see some kind of improvement this year to have any faith that Barrett actually knows what he is doing.

Is Adam Reynolds the answer the Broncos have been searching for?

Lucie: Tick. Tick. Tick. Adam Reynolds can lead the Broncos back to finals footy because a player of his calibre does so much more than provide leadership, experience and on-field flair. He attracts players that would not have previously wanted to join the club, potentially being the first domino in their next stage of recruitment. It helps the club get back into the market, which is a massive boost for coach Kevin Walters after the likes of Tom Deardon and Xavier Coates turned their back on the club. It should be a seamless transition for Reynolds to slot into the club, given he's come from one of the NRL's biggest clubs to another - he knows how to deal with the pressure and expectations of being a marquee signing in the spotlight.

Darren: There is a bit of head scratching going in league circles over Adam Reynolds' decision to take less money to move his young family up to Brisbane to play for the Broncos. The Sharks seemed to be an attractive option and he would have been a great addition to lead their rebuild under new coach Craig Fitzgibbon. Of course we all know the Broncos would have been able to offer more than just the three-year contract, with third party deals and future employment both strong possibilities. There is no doubt that Reynolds provides the Broncos with an attractive short-term solution to their halfback and leadership problems, but I can't help but think that this is another slap in the face for the locally developing talent. Historically the strength of the Broncos has been their junior development and the passion that these locals had for the club. With Anthony Milford a recent example of a gun-for-hire gone wrong, the arrival of Reynolds could cause further internal rifts. If the team isn't 100 percent behind the Reynolds signing, will he be able to perform at his best?

How can Brad Fittler jam four superstar fullbacks into the Blues team?

Lucie: Caught short in the 2020 decider, New South Wales need all four fullbacks to feature in Brad Fittler's 17 to take back the State of Origin shield from Queensland this year. The Blues can ill afford to ignore the calibre of James Tedesco, Tom Trbojevic, Latrell Mitchell and Ryan Papenhuyzen, it will just take a bit of manoeuvring. I think Tedesco, who is considered the world's best player, is a certainty to start at No.1. Although this NRL season is not a standout by his standards, he is the team's captain and has been a major part of the Blues resurgence. The likely scenario will have Papenhuyzen as utility, with NSW loathe to repeat last year's mistake of not having a replacement back when Tedesco came off in the decider. The stunning return of Trbojevic from injury has many questioning whether he should claim the No.1 based on form, but by putting him in the centres (where he has played before for NSW) it gives the Blues a two-pronged attack with both on field. Mitchell, who was leading the Dally M charts before his four-match suspension, could partner Trbojevic at centre and create havoc through the middle. No matter what, Fittler has a healthy headache with NSW's depth at fullback. But his bigger conundrum is who will wear the No.6 jersey come June 9.

Darren: New South Wales simply can't afford to leave players of the ability of Tom Trbojevic, James Tedesco, Latrell Mitchell and Ryan Papenhuyzen out of the 17 to take on the Maroons. There have been calls to play players in their specialised positions, but these four have to be the exception. Tedesco is the incumbent and the country's best fullback, so the Blues No.1 jersey is his for as long as he is fit to wear it. I'm not convinced that Trbojevic should play in the centres though, being on the wing allows him to get back for kick returns where his open field running can be so dangerous. Mitchell has played plenty of centre and he has surely adjusted his attitude since his last appearance there for the Blues. Papenhuyzen fits naturally into the No.14 jersey and if not required to replace a backline injury he can be brought on for Damien Cook to cause havoc out of dummy-half. The biggest question is whether Jack Wighton has been playing well enough to get a run at all and what opportunities his absence would provide at five-eighth or centre.