An older and wiser Ben Barba has backed himself to earn the North Queensland No.1 jersey in 2019, despite the Cowboys’ pursuit of Cronulla full back Valentine Holmes.
After getting his first taste of life as a Cowboy at a sweltering Townsville training session, the former St Helens full back told Fox Sports that he was determined to savour his NRL lifeline and be ‘first picked’ at full back for the season opener.
The former Dally M medallist admitted he could not afford to be distracted by speculation North Queensland were trying to lure Sharks superstar Holmes to the club next year as he launched his comeback.
Barba, 29, has signed a one-year Cowboys deal, returning to the NRL for the first time since he copped a 12-match ban for a second positive test for an illicit substance following Cronulla’s 2016 NRL premiership win.
“This means everything. When I left last time I thought I was done for,” Barba said.
“I didn’t expect to ever be back. I thought I would spend the rest of my career in England.”
Asked how he had changed since 2016, Barba said: “Hopefully, a bit wiser than I was before.
“It is no secret that my career has been a very rocky one.
“I have made some stupid decisions in my life. I know now this is my last chance.
“I have to knuckle down. Hopefully I have a few more years left in the game.”