Barba brilliance to bag even more silverware
Ben Barba attacks. AAP Image/Action Photographics, Renee McKay
If his magic carpet ride continues, Ben Barba may require a carpenter at his home in the near future. The brilliant young fullback will need to make room for rugby league’s largest trophy cabinet.
Barba has won just about every award on offer this year, and if the Bulldogs can get past Souths tomorrow night, it’s conceivable he might collect a premiership ring as well as the Clive Churchill Medal in the grand final.
Few if any players have had such a season as that enjoyed by Barba in 2012.
Consider the following awards that have come his way: Dally M Player of the Year; NRL top try scorer (equal with North Queensland’s Ashley Graham), Fullback of the Year, Provan-Summons Medal (fans most popular player), the Peter Frilingos Memorial Award (league’s best moment of the year) as well as the RL Players Association gong for player of the year.
Barba has yet to play a State of Origin or Test match but if he had been in those arenas this season could anyone have stopped his amazing momentum?
I cannot find anyone who speaks ill of the modest Canterbury champion and I’d love him to be the main man again at ANZ Stadium, even if it means the South Sydney fairytale won’t materialise this year.
Barba is an excitement package in attack and defence. I reckon there will be league fans who don’t follow the Dogs or the Rabbitohs making the trek to Homebush just to catch the little guy in action.
Every time he runs onto the field there is an air of anticipation, an electricity that sets the crowd abuzz. Something similar certainly applies to his fellow fullback finalists – Billy Slater, Brett Stewart and Greg Inglis – but I reckon the diminutive Barba is adored like no other. Perhaps it is because of his 90kg, 174cm frame.
Initially, Barba had to bide his time before winning selection in first grade. Coaches Steve Folkes and Kevin Moore felt he was too small for the big time.
When he did win promotion, serious questions were raised over his flaws in defence as well as his inability to deal with the arsenal of high balls he was being peppered with on a weekly basis.
Enter Des Hasler, the champion coach from Manly, who pulled the fullback aside and pretty much turned Barba’s coal dust into a diamond.
“We are very lucky to have Des at our club,” Barba said last month. “It’s the belief he has given me.
“He knew the deficiencies in my game – he kinew where and why I struggled with catching and my defence. He just said hard work and dedication would get me there…”
Well, Des certainly got that right.
The super quick Barba has arrived this season with all of the wonder and impact of a meteor.
He will hold many of the Bulldogs’ hopes tomorrow night, especially if his team needs a long distance try, or even a solitary spark to ignite their attack against a fiercely committed Rabbitoh outfit.
I am eagerly awaiting a brilliant contest, and with so many gifted attacking players on offer, a high-scoring game would not surprise.
Forced to offer a tip, I lean towards the Bulldogs by six.
Coach Hasler has had his men playing finals style football for most of the year, whereas Souths have yet to learn that games go for the full 80 minutes.
Tonight’s Melbourne versus Manly duel at AAMI Park in Melbourne is being billed as a blood and thunder affair. Neither team will be looking to take any prisoners – if you like your league physical, don’t miss a moment’s action.
The Eagles and the Storm have a history of explosive contests and another chapter will surely be written tonight.
Perhaps the physical nature of this game will have a carry-over effect to the grand final. The winner might be doubling as the walking wounded on September 30.
For what it’s worth, I am tipping the Storm by eight.
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