Ben Barba on the run at a Cowboys pre-season training session.. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Ben Barba on the run at a Cowboys pre-season training session.. Picture: Alix Sweeney

Barba ready to “play my heart out” for Cowboys

STAR Cowboys recruit Barba insists he doesn't expect to be handed the club's No. 1 jersey next season as he looks to reignite his NRL career.

Barba had his first day of preseason with the Cowboys at Townsville Sports Reserve this morning and spoke of his desire to repay the club's faith after being given a lifeline to return to Australia.

The 29-year-old hasn't played in the NRL since 2016 after testing positive to cocaine during Cronulla's premiership celebrations, but he is coming off a brilliant season with St Helens in the English Super League.

Barba scored 34 tries in as many games to be named the competition's Man of Steel, but the Mackay product said he was well aware that he still needs to prove himself at the Cowboys.

"The NRL's not new to me, but I know it's a totally different ball game," Barba said.

Ben Barba. NRL; North Queensland Cowboys pre season training at Townsville Sports Reserve. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Ben Barba. NRL; North Queensland Cowboys pre season training at Townsville Sports Reserve. Picture: Alix Sweeney

"I see myself as a fullback and that's the position I'd love to play here, but no one's said I'm going to walk straight in here and grab it.

"It means everything (to be back in the NRL). When I last left I thought I was done for. I didn't expect to ever be back. I thought I'd spend the rest of my career over in England.

"I'm in a very lucky position at the moment. I'm going to enjoy myself and work hard for this club that's given me this great opportunity."

Barba already has the stamp of approval from his new Cowboys team mates, with veteran backrower Gavin Cooper saying the elusive playmaker can reinvigorate their backline.

"He's an exciting player. At his best he's very tough to handle. He brings the ball back really strong and he's really skilful with his hands as well," Cooper said.

"I know we've had some guys in the past that played that fullback role really well, but he brings something else that those guys probably don't bring.

Ben Barba. NRL; North Queensland Cowboys pre season training at Townsville Sports Reserve. Picture: Alix Sweeney
Ben Barba. NRL; North Queensland Cowboys pre season training at Townsville Sports Reserve. Picture: Alix Sweeney

"If our big boys can roll us up the right end of the field he'll be very hard to handle."

Barba has only signed a one-year deal in North Queensland with the club looking to recruit his former Sharks team mate and Townsville product Valentine Holmes for 2020 and beyond.

All eyes will be on Barba to see if he can recapture his Dally M-winning form and secure another contract, but the man himself was philosophical about that pressure to perform.

"I know it's going to be hard. I'm not 22, 23 anymore. I'm 30 next year and everyone wants the younger guy coming through," Barba said.

"I'm a great mate of Val's and at the end of the year if they chase him they chase him. That's no harm to me. I'm all for just being here this year and let my footy do the talking.

"There's not much I can do here except play my heart out for the Cowboys in 2019."