By STEVE MASCORD
THE star of the 2012 season who crashed and burned is now back as a “complete footballer”, according to a man who’s had a front row seat all along
Cronulla fullback Ben Barba was Dally M medallist as Canterbury fullback that year, only for off-field dramas to see him leave the club the following year.
A foray into the halves and a double change of clubs followed for Barba, who seemed to have permanently lost his way in the ruthless world of professional sports.
But in a 62-0 belting of Newcastle on Sunday, no-one was left in any doubt of the triple B headine – Ben Barba is Back.
“Benny’s been super slick since the start of the year,” said his team-mate then and now, Michael Ennis.
“He’s in a great space. Everyone will always look at 2012 in terms of that run that he had. But in terms of being the complete footballer, he’s taken massive leaps this year.
“He was brilliant back then too. That was as good as any fullback I’ve ever played with, what he did in 2012. But what he’s doing with our side both with the ball and more importantly without it, he’s evolved. He’s developed heaps in the last three years
“He’s in a good place and he’s playing some enormous footy for us.”
Ennis says it trying to recapture his attacking brilliance was the easy route for Barba, now 26.
“When you have a year like he did in 2012, everyone spoke about his attack and his line-breaks and his tries and the highlights reels,” the rake said.
“It’s what he’s done off the ball … you see his attack start to flow and his confidence start to come again. He’s a good player.”
Despite scoring 11 tries on Sunday, Ennis revealed: “It wasn’t until (Saturday) when we even worked on our attack.
“It’s been all about our defence this week because Flanno (coach Shane Flanagan) thought after a week and a half away from each other it’s an area where we could have taken our foot off the pedal.
“You look at the Broncos and the Cowboys and and their last 18 months that they’ve had and then the Storm have been doing this for quite some time– we’re just behind them.
“We’re just doing our thing and keeping it low key.”
As a veteran of 20 first grade games for the Knights, Ennis felt desperately sorry for his opposition.
“In those games, you sometimes get away from the opposition,” he said.
“I felt a bit sorry for them in the sense that it goes from 16, 18 to 50 really quick sometimes when the momentum’s not with you.
“As painful as it will be, they’ll get some real good experience from it.
“It’s hard to pull back. They’ve got some real good players up here, real good young kids who are going to be players of the future.
“I like what Browny (coach Nathan Brown) is doing up here. I think in the coming years they’re going to be a good side. It’s just hard at the moment.”
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK