Canterbury five-eighth Josh Reynolds believes this year's Bulldogs outfit is a more complete football team than the Ben Barba-inspired side that reached the 2012 grand final.
As the Bulldogs prepare to snap a three-game losing streak against Barba's Broncos in Brisbane on Friday night, Reynolds insists the Bulldogs have a more balanced side than they did two years ago.
"Benny was just a freak that year and everything he touched turned to gold," Reynolds said.
"But now I think we're more of a complete team. I don't think you can say we relied on Ben Barba, but we're probably not as dependent on one player any more.
"That Trent's [Hodkinson] doing what he's doing, making line breaks left, right and centre, and hopefully I can create some problems on the other side of the field ... We're definitely more confident in our partnership and our ability, especially after the Origin series."
Fairfax Media has been told the Bulldogs privately view Barba's release to the Broncos as a A$250,000 get-out-of-jail-free card. They believe new fullback, Kiwi international Sam Perrett, is providing a better service for Canterbury than Barba is for the Broncos.
Some club officials also consider Barba's release, which was sealed by a A$250,000 transfer fee from the Broncos to the Bulldogs, has helped the club's culture and team harmony.
The 2012 player of the year has struggled this season, and was recently switched from fullback to five-eighth in a bid to help him rediscover his confidence.
Barba, now 25, appears to be a shadow of the player he once was.
He scored 22 tries and recorded 27 line breaks in 2012. This year he has scored just three tries and made three line breaks.
Two years ago he also managed 21 line-break assists, 23 try assists, 171 tackle breaks and 123 metres per game in 27 matches for the Bulldogs.
In 2014, he has made just four line break assists, five try assists, 35 tackle breaks and 75m per game in 19 matches for the Broncos.
Reynolds concedes the Bulldogs have had to alter their style of football with the ball in hand since Barba's departure. He says there is now a lot more responsibility on him and Hodkinson to ignite the Bulldogs attack.
"I'm not going to lie, our structure back then suited Benny to a 'T'," Reynolds said.
"He was electric, backing himself and very confident in what he was doing. He knew big guys like Sam Kasiano were getting offloads and he'd always be there. He's gone now so we've had to try and create spark from other areas.
"I definitely think as a team we grind out games better now. It's probably fair to say we've had to alter our attack without Benny. We've now got Sammy Perrett back there doing a good job, and it's probably put the onus on me and Trent to create that extra spark for the team."
The Bulldogs desperately need to win on Friday night as they could drop out of the top eight if they lose to the Broncos.
While Perrett does not possess the X-factor of his counterpart on Friday night, he has more than matched him in key areas this year.
Perrett averages 13.9 runs per game compared with Barba's 9.2 runs, and also makes almost 120m per game compared with the 75m Barba chalks up for Brisbane.
Then 29-year-old Perrett also has also made more tackle breaks, better kick-return metres and fewer errors than Barba this season.
"Sam has stepped up into the No.1 jersey and done a fantastic job for us this year," Bulldogs chief executive Raelene Castle said.
"He's such a complete, all-round quality. He played his 200th NRL game on the weekend, which is an amazing achievement for any player because not many people get there. He continues to deliver on the field, but he's not only a fantastic teammate, he's also a fantastic club man."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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