Dan's The New Man
Big League
Benjamin Everill

The prophets of doom said the Bulldogs couldn't afford to let playmaker Braith Anasta go. His little-known replacement has them eating their words.

Cracking the inner sanctum at a new club is hard at the best of times, but when you're charged with filling a crucial position in the side - one previously held by a premiership-winning representative player - it can loom as a mission impossible.

That's just what Daniel Holdsworth faced this year.

To be successful in the blue and white you must meet several criteria. You have to fit the culture, work hard on the field, be part of the team, join the boys away from the field... and be part of the team.

It can be daunting for any youngster coming through the ranks, even though from an early age they breed them tough out Belmore way. But for a youngster from outside, a young unknown like Holdsworth coming from the Dragons' Premier League ranks, the transition prospect was all the more intimidating.

There was really only one question mark attached to the Bulldogs prior to this NRL season: how would their halves function in the absence of Braith Anasta - could the blue-and-white army trust Steve Folkes' $80,000 bargain basement buy to fill the hole? Or at the very least in part?

Could they what! Even the most ardent fan wouldn't have expected the form they have seen from the man they call DJ. But so impressive has his transition into a full-time NRL player been, many in Bulldogs territory are wondering whether the current halves combination isn't the equal of the combination that featured Anasta in recent years.

Holdsworth won't buy into talk of filling Anasta's boots - he's all about making a name for himself on his own terms. But if others want to talk him up to Anasta's level, he's happy to acknowledge the praise.

"I am proud that I've been able to stay in first grade and do the job capably in my first full season," Holdsworth tells Big League.

"I hope the fans are happy with the job I've done and if they had any doubts, I hope they have less now.

"I would be happy if they were saying "Braith who?" - obviously that's nothing against Braith, I think he's an amazing player and I have plenty to do to achieve anywhere near what he has, but if the fans are happy with what I'm providing, then obviously I'm pleased."

The 22-year-old could easily have struggled under the pressure of having to perform outside what is basically a representative forward pack. Obviously the platform they provide gives him the space he craves, but directing and commanding the respect of the game's elite can take time.

Compounding things, halfback Brent Sherwin started the year in terrible form - at one stage being relegated to the lower grades, heaping even more weight on the West Australian junior's shoulders.

"Daniel has more than filled in for Braith Anasta," Bulldogs legend Steve Mortimer enthuses. "He is so reliable and extremely gifted and he's been a fantastic buy. His manager should strike while the iron's hot and chase an extended deal, because the Bulldogs haven't missed a beat this year and he's been there all season on minimal money.

"Even at times when Sherwin wasn't there or was a little bit out of form, Holdsworth has shown maturity and composure well beyond his years and experience," the veteran of 272 games for the club adds.

"If the Dragons still had him you can bet Mark Gasnier wouldn't be turning into a five-eighth, that's how good he's shown he can be. I think he'll follow Luke Patten as one of the great recent buys at the club and ironically they've both come from the Dragons."

TRAIN HARD... But how did this unassuming kid, who had played just six sporadic games of first grade prior to joining the club, go about becoming 'one of the boys' and being able to direct traffic with such maturity and authority?

"When I signed with the club a few people said to me 'get ready for pre-season', and they were right to warn me. They train tough here, they are all tight mates who rip in both at training and in games and you have to ensure you're prepared to do the hard yards with them," he explains.

Train hard, play hard. It's what they do and from all reports what they've always done. There is plenty of history and passion to live up to in that regard.

"It is tough to try to tell the rep guys what to do. It can be hard when big Mase (Willie Mason) or Sonny (Bill Williams) really want the ball and you just have to get it to them, but the game is based on our pack getting us forward, so it's not like it's a problem giving it to them. At the end of the day they know it's the halves' job to direct the team and if you earn their respect, they'll return it."

Holdsworth went in with an attitude to succeed, and it won him plenty of admirers. But he still refuses to get comfortable in the top grade.

"I made sure I ripped in at training and got among the leaders from the first few days, to prove I wanted to be there and I was serious about being part of their culture. But I knew I still had to prove it on the field," he explains.

CHILDHOOD IDOL... "It takes time and if I have their respect now then I'll aim to keep it and if I don't, I'll keep working hard and hopefully it will come. I feel like I'm one of the boys, but I'm not completely comfortable with my position in the team. I still feel the pressure of performing to stay in the team, but that keeps me going and keeps me wanting to play better. I see it as a positive that can drive me."

His next assignment is one he's especially looking forward to. Holdsworth served his apprenticeship under Trent Barrett at St George Illawarra, his childhood idol, and opposite number this Sunday afternoon.

Although the Dragons are on the back of four straight losses, while the 'Dogs are enjoying a current winning streak of five, Holdsworth knows the task will be tough.

With Barrett bearing the brunt of criticism, some even suggesting he shift to lock, Holdsworth stands up for his former club mate.

"It frustrates me reading articles that bag Trent," he admits. "I know how great a player he is and how much he means to that team. If anyone went down to training and saw him in action, they'd understand.

"All it's likely to do is fire up Trent even more; when he's crankier he certainly rips in and I'll have to contend with that.

"Growing up, he was my idol and I was lucky enough to train under him. I haven't played with him or against him, so it will be exciting for me to put myself up against one of the best."

One gets the feeling Holdsworth will pass the test and help the Bulldogs juggernaut keep rolling towards a second Grand Final appearance in three years. And those Bulldogs supporters lamenting a certain player's loss last year? They're getting fewer by the week.

DID YOU KNOW... Holdsworth attributes club stalwart Tony Grimaldi as the most helpful in his development at the club. "He's always into me about doing extras and he'll be there holding a pad for me to tackle after normal training," he says. "Luke Patten loves the extra work too; he'll work with me on my kicking game all the time."


"I hope the fans are happy with the job I've done and if they had any doubts, I hope they have less now. "

Who needs Braith Who? when you have DJ Goldsworth!!!

"I would be happy if they were saying "Braith who?"
Haha who is Braith??..oh thats right. The guy who went to the Rorters and is now playing the worst footy in his whole career. :)


i cant see the big whoop la created about replacing anasta. he was/is so overrated. if anything if i were a bulldogs fan, id be wondering why we let thurston go and kept anasta at the time.


Tajhay said:
i cant see the big whoop la created about replacing anasta. he was/is so overrated. if anything if i were a bulldogs fan, id be wondering why we let thurston go and kept anasta at the time.
Don't worry Tajhay. I think of that every time JT has an outstanding game. Then get more and more angry about Anasta.

And "the big whoop la" about replacing anasta, well to me, is because he left us for the Roosters. :|. And said how Ricky was the best coach who had ever coached him. I see no premiership this year buddy!!

But it was the right decision for us to keep Mason over Anasta. The 2 don't even compare!!

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