ANDREW JOHNS – NINEMSN – BARBA'S RETURN WILL SPARK THE BULLDOGS

By ANDREW JOHNS 28 March 2013

The return of Ben Barba this weekend is just what the Canterbury Bulldogs have been waiting for and his creative flair will lift them right across the park against South Sydney. The Bulldogs have been battling so far this season without some key players but Barba is obviously the one they have missed most. I think his return will spark the Bulldogs into ending South Sydney’s unbeaten run.

The Rabbitohs leaked a few points last week against Penrith and they’ll have to tighten up if they are to stop the Bulldogs and Barba. As good as Barba is, the bloke in the Rabbitohs No1 jersey is simply from another planet. When Greg Inglis is within 10 metres of the ball, alarm bells have to be ringing for the opposition defence. Every time I watch him play I am more impressed with what he can do. Apart from maybe Mal Meninga, I don’t think I have ever seen a player so big, so fast and so skilful. Des Hasler will have his players geared up to contain Inglis as much as they can, but I haven’t seen any team keep him out of the game completely.

Souths are a big team with a huge pack and the best way to beat them is to run them off their feet around the ruck. That’s what reserve hooker James Segeyaro did for the Panthers against the Rabbitohs last week. The Bulldogs will look to work the middle of the ruck and send their strike weapon Barba through any openings. It should be a great game, with the Dogs just getting the points.

Two teams currently struggling through the lack of a quality strike player are Brisbane Broncos and St George Illawarra. Both can’t seem to find the try line and the results speak for themselves. St George Illawarra is winless at the bottom of the ladder and the only game Brisbane has won was against the Dragons.

I’ve heard that the Dragons are keen to sign disgruntled rugby star Kurtley Beale. Beale played junior rugby league and is an incredibly gifted player who would no doubt be a great buy, but he’s not a short-term solution. It would take him a year or more to adapt physically to the fitness demands of rugby league. As we’ve seen so far this year Sonny Bill Williams is taking time to find his feet in the game and he would have to be one of the fittest blokes I’ve seen. Rugby league match fitness is a whole different thing and it would take Beale a while to be at his best.

There is talk that the Broncos will sign former Raiders fullback Josh Dugan and he is just the kind of player they need. I think he will end up in Brisbane and the sooner the better for the Broncos. Unfortunately he won’t be there in time to save them from Melbourne Storm on Friday night.

The Storm looked a bit jaded at times in the second half against the Bulldogs last week and very nearly let the game slip. Much has been said about their heavy travel schedule at the start of the season but Craig Bellamy still has them unbeaten at the top of the ladder. Travelling to Brisbane to play at Suncorp Stadium will be very familiar for the ‘Big Three’. Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith have had a lot of success in that arena and a big crowd atmosphere will see them lift to even greater heights.

I don’t think the Broncos have any hope. It’s hard enough scoring tries against the Storm when your attack is firing and you have strike players. Brisbane have a lot of work to do if they are to make the finals and signing Dugan could be the first step towards finding the strike power they need to turn their season around.

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