Bulldogs' Ben Barba recapturing his best form
Canterbury coach Des Hasler says Ben Barba is having to contend with opposition sides more aware of his freakish abilities this season but the star fullback is close to recapturing the stellar form of his Dally M medal-winning year in 2012.
Barba was a key figure in Canterbury's 24-14 win over Brisbane on Friday night. He scored the Bulldogs opening try and saved two first-half tries with last-ditch efforts on the goal line.
The game-breaking No.1 endured a slow start to the year after his club-enforced suspension but Hasler said he was starting to find his groove.
"I have to give due credit to Benny because he has been working on other parts of his game but he still has that ability to turn a game on its head," Hasler said.
"You can't ignore his pedigree or his ability to score a try.
"(His form) is there I just think sides are more aware of it.
"On a pretty tricky field in pretty tricky conditions I thought Benny was fantastic for us."
In rainy conditions at ANZ Stadium, Barba was solid at the back and sliced through the Broncos line when carting the ball back in the second half and embarked on a 50m run before dishing off to centre Josh Morris in a scene NRL fans saw so much of last season.
Bulldogs skipper Michael Ennis said Barba was beginning to recreate combinations with the likes of James Graham and Frank Pritchard who missed the early rounds.
"Around the ruck you hear him calling all the time, especially around guys like Graham and Pritchard," Ennis said.
"He is expecting tough marking but he is trying to find other ways. He is working on different things each week at training that I never saw him working on last year. And he is great in defence too. That tackle to stop (Josh) Hoffman was great."
Hasler said he thought Barba was ready for a call-up for the Queensland State of Origin side but that would depend on what tactics coach Mal Meninga employed. Whether Meninga will opt for four forwards on his bench or three forwards and a utility player for the Origin opener in Sydney on June 5 in Sydney.
Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans is also in the mix for a utility spot.
"Queensland have an embarrassment of riches don't they," Hasler said.