Nathan Cleary's telling reveal as Trent Barrett receives high-profile support to continue NRL career

The Parramatta Eels opted to go with Jason Ryles as head coach for 2025.

Nice guys finish last. In Trent Barrett's case, sometimes literally. The 46-year-old finds himself on the outer after missing out on the Parramatta coaching job, with Jason Ryles the preferred candidate.

Barrett put together an impressive and detailed pitch to the Eels board and received a heavy PR push fronted by the club's two leading players, Mitchell Moses and Clint Gutherson. He's kept the Eels competitive under trying circumstances since taking over from Brad Arthur. It still wasn't enough.

Barrett's head coaching journey will stop – for now at least – following three stints at three different clubs with varying success. He guided Manly to the finals in 2017 but is most remembered for supplying his own furniture for the players' common room.

Nathan Cleary and Trent Barrett.
Nathan Cleary has previously praised Trent Barrett for the work he did at the Panthers. Image: Getty

Two of his three seasons ended with bottom four finishes. Penrith took him back as an assistant in 2020 to underpin the club's attack. He helped guide the Panthers into that year's decider.

"Baz has been a massive asset to improving our attack," Nathan Cleary declared at the time. "He’s been massive to me. I can’t speak highly enough of what Baz has done."

Trent Barratt and Nathan Cleary at Penrith in 2020.
Trent Barratt was an assistant coach at Penrith in 2020 when they made the first of four grand finals in a row. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Barrett then moved to Canterbury, against the advice of many, in 2021. As the Panthers embarked on the first of what turned out to be a three-peat of premierships, Baz struggled to make an impact at Belmore. His side finished last in his first season before it all ended in tears just a few months into the 2022 campaign.

"He’s as good a young coach I’ve seen coming through the system. He’s just been in the wrong place at the wrong time," Dogs boss Phil Gould said back then. "He’s taken on big jobs because he backs himself and he’s very confident in his own ability. He works extremely hard - he’s the most hard-working young coach I’ve seen."

Trent Barrett, pictured here during a Parramatta Eels game.
Trent Barrett looks on during a Parramatta game. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

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Barrett's win-loss percentage now sits at 31 per cent. He won 15 per cent of games at the Bulldogs and his record as Parramatta coach is one victory from six starts. The 46-year-old already has one wooden spoon to his name and may add another to the collection unless the Eels start winning soon.

But this is a bloke Gould and the Clearys rated highly enough to work alongside and spruik. Players like Moses, Gutherson, the Trbojevics and Daly Cherry-Evans speak highly of his ability and league smarts. Surely with all their collective rugby league IP, they can't all be that wide of the mark.

So has Barrett, as Gus suggests, been the wrong coach for the wrong place during his head coaching career? Or is he simply a good assistant coach who should stay in his lane and act as a trusted second-in-charge?

"The way I see it, he either works his way back via a stint in Super League or contents himself with being an assistant with a view to getting another shot down the track," one agent told Yahoo Sport Australia. "It’s not necessarily over for him as an NRL head coach. He's clearly got some strong support from influential figures in the game." Ironically, it may be the man who beat Barrett for the Parramatta job - Ryles – who throws him a lifeline for now and keeps him on staff at the Eels.