Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin has backed Ben Barba to handle the hostile reception expected when he runs out against former side the Bulldogs.
Simply meeting his new Brisbane teammates made Ben Barba nervous.
But the Broncos are backing a more settled Barba to prosper amid an anticipated hot reception from former Bulldogs colleagues and their passionate fans in the NRL clash at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.
A glimpse of what Barba can expect following his off-season switch was provided 12 months ago when Canterbury vented their spleen at another former golden boy, Sonny Bill Williams.
The Broncos aren’t predicting fullback Barba will match Williams’ two-try match-winning performance that day but they’re quietly confident the ex-Dally M Medallist can help them crash Canterbury’s opening round party.
“Tomorrow night no doubt he will get a pretty hostile reception. Once he gets through that he will be fine,” Griffin said.
“But whether we are playing the Bulldogs or not, it is not an issue.
“It probably makes for good theatre but we are trying to win a footy game.”
Griffin revealed Barba appeared nothing like the confident performer who led the Bulldogs to the 2012 NRL grand final when he first arrived at Red Hill.
Keen to bounce back from dramas on and off the field, Barba cut a coy figure when introduced at training.
“He was probably a bit nervous,” Griffin said. “But as the months have gone on and he got to know the guys he has become more relaxed.
“He has been good for the team just in the way he has conducted himself and his attitude.
“But in the end it will depend on how he plays his footy.”
Barba now is a world away from the man who missed the opening rounds of 2013 due to personal issues.
Ankle dramas then sabotaged his season before Barba was granted a Bulldogs release to be closer to his family after his estranged wife relocated from Sydney to Brisbane.
Barba has been given every chance to reclaim his stunning 2012 form this season as Brisbane look to bounce back from 2013’s 12th placing – their worst season finish.
He has been handed a roaming role in attack, running off a forward pack led by co-captain Corey Parker, who had a league-high 68 offloads last season.
The Bulldogs will also be out to exorcise last year’s demons.
As Barba succumbed to the pressure of being the NRL’s latest pin-up boy, Canterbury started last year 1-5, sparking questions about team harmony.
They were eventually knocked out in the first week of finals 22-6 by Newcastle.
Canterbury – who have not lost at home to Brisbane since 2008 – will battle without Krisnan Inu (broken jaw), Sam Kasiano (foot), Greg Eastwood (foot), Drury Low (broken hand) and Tim Lafai (broken hand).