Ben Barba set to bite back with Cronulla Sharks
IT WAS in this fixture two years ago that then-Bulldogs try-scoring machine Ben Barba shone for the Indigenous All Stars, before his troubled off-field lifestyle was revealed - and it almost derailed his career.
Barba scored a stunning hat-trick in the 2013 All Stars fixture.
That was just before the Dally M Medallist from the previous year stunned the rugby league world by revealing his binge-drinking and gambling problems were affecting his family life.
But the backline flier, still only 25, believes he is ready for a bumper 2015 season at the Sharks, starting with a big performance in the match on the Gold Coast on Friday night.
A large part of that renewed confidence comes from Barba's belief he has rediscovered his blistering speed after a disappointing season at the Broncos.
"When I was at my best I was very light, and the muscle I put on in Brisbane took away what I was good at, which was being quick," Barba said.
"I'm finding that again at the Sharks - I worked pretty hard in the off-season to drop some weight and try to get that speed back.
"Hopefully on Friday I can show people I can get back to the form I had."
He certainly appears to be in the right head space, turning in an impressive cameo off the bench in the Sharks' 42-22 loss to Manly over the weekend.
With early predictions of a small crowd for this All Stars fixture - the fifth in the series - Barba said the NRL should consider relocating the match to Townsville next year.
"I know being a proud north Queenslander, I'm sure the numbers will turn up there," he said. "They love their rugby league up there.
"We (the players) take it pretty seriously and wherever it ends up I'm sure it would be a hit."
With a lack of forwards to choose from, Barba also offered a left-field suggestion for the Indigenous team, suggesting coach Laurie Daley could do worse than throw hulking fullback Greg Inglis into the pack.
"Greggy is a big human - he could play front row and it wouldn't look silly," Barba said.
"We're pretty short on forwards, but whoever ends up playing there I'm sure they'll do the job."
- APN SPORTS BUREAU
Indigenous All Stars: Greg Inglis, Alex Johnston, Will Chambers, Justin Hodges, Josh Hoffman, Ben Barba, Johnathan Thurston, George Rose, Ray Thompson, Ryan James, Tyrone Peachey, Kyle Turner, Chris Grevsmuhl. Inter: Tyrone Roberts, David Fifita, Dane Gagai, Tyson Andrews, Jack Wighton, Kierran Moseley, Brad Tighe
NRL All Stars: Matt Moylan, Manu Vatuvei, Jarrod Croker, Dylan Walker, Antonio Winterstein, Kieran Foran, Mitchell Pearce, James Graham, Nathan Friend, Jarred Waerea-Hargreaves, Beau Scott (c), Jason Taumalolo, Paul Gallen. Inter: Jesse Bromwich, Luke Brooks, Joseph Paulo, Trent Merrin, Corey Parker, Jeremy Smith, Dave Taylor