By STEVE MASCORD
IT was a clash which his rival was credited with winning but according to Ben Barba’s team-mates, the round 10 dust-up with Willie Mason was proof his competitive spirit was back.
Fullback Barba dazzled at times in the 24-14 win over Brisbane on Friday night, 11 weeks into a season which started with him being stood down due to personal problems. Five days earlier, he was involved in a verbal stoush with Mason at Hunter Stadium, which the Newcastle star later admitted had been a case of mistaken identity on his part.
“He showed a lot of passion in that little run-in with Mase and that’s what we like to see,” said Bulldogs utility Dene Halatau.
“For him to show that he wants to be out there competing for the team, that he has the boys’ backs, that’s a sign that he’s working hard and he wants to play football.
“For him to get back to his best … the first part of the year, every team’s been marking him well.
“They put a kick down and I’m sure every team would have a kick-chase on Barba as their number one priority. In broken field, he’s going to cut you up.
“He’s been targeted by opposition teams and he’s been working hard to combat that.”
Halatau said the Bulldogs were “complacent” in going down 44-8 to the Knights. “We just went up to Newcastle and the boys didn’t have the mindset to earn a win,” he said. “We just had the mindset that because we were playing well, it would just happen for us.”
Meanwhile, off-contract Halatau is determine to play on in the NRL next season.
“I’m still keen to play on, I feel I have a couple of good years in me yet, I feel fresh,” said Halatau, who also hopes he has not played his last Test for the Kiwis.
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK