Being that it is Grand Final week, it is not beyond belief that non-Grand Final stories have been missed. Between the race against the clock for Cooper Cronk and the Billy Slater saga, everything else has been brushed aside.
That said, I am truly shocked that a massive story broke this week and has caused hardly a ripple in the media or social media.
For those who missed the news, the North Queensland Cowboys have signed Ben Barba to a one-year deal for the 2019 season.
Despite the lack of fan fare, make no mistake, this is a game-changing signing. For mine this is the biggest signing for the 2019 season and makes the Cowboys a genuine threat straight away.
The Cowboys will lose plenty of talent at the conclusion of the season in the form of one Johnathan Thurston meaning they’ll have to find 20+ try assists in 2019.
Michael Morgan will have had an off-season and a half to rest up with hopes he will return to his best, but the absence of Thurston placed tremendous pressure on the returning Cowboys star.
Enter the attacking freak that is Ben Barba.
For those who don’t follow the game outside of the NRL competition, Barba has been in red hot form since the second he stepped onto the field in the English Super League.
He will win the Super League version of the Dally M medal, the Man of Steel, in an absolute landslide.
There were genuine fears that Barba would miss the rest of the season due to an injury suffered two months ago. His lead in the standings was such that he was still $1.05 (exaggeration) to be awarded the honour.
Many may remember the downright ridiculous season Ben Barba had in 2016 when he lead the Sharks to their first ever Premiership title.
He was the difference so many times during the season and he was the star on Grand Final day, scoring the opening try and terrorising the Storm defence.
Barba was a try-assisting freak for the Sharks, just as he was for the Bulldogs in his Dally M season of 2012.
Jarryd Hayne aside, I have never seen such domination from a player. Thurston and Cronk are magical players but even they haven’t had a Barba 2012 season.
Although he’s arguably not the player he was in his Dally M medal winning season, he is exactly what the Cowboys need to kick start their return to the top.
The Thurston era is over and now the Townsville-based club enter the Morgan era. He cannot do it alone.
With Lachlan Coote moving on, the Cowboys need a number one. There was talk that Michael Morgan may return to the custodian spot but that would open up two new half roles that would need to be filled, meaning the Cowboys would all but have to start over afresh.
Barba’s signing will provide the Cowboys with the attacking fullback option they sorely missed in 2018 while allowing Michael Morgan to return to the five-eighth or even half back position.
Despite the presense of players such as Matt Scott, Jason Taumalolo and of course Morgan, the Cowboys will field a relatively inexperienced and young side in 2019.
Barba’s signing adds a cool head (if he can contain the odd off-field problem) while adding a player who can tear any side apart at any time.
He is in another league to most fullbacks when it comes to ball playing ability. He has a surprising turn of speed and at times it looks as though he has spiders on him, such is the reluctance of opposition defenders to lay hands on him.
I hope I haven’t put the mock on Barba, as I am a huge fan of watching him play.
Cowboys fans can barely hide their smiles at the news and I can’t blame them.
With Valentine Holmes all but set to move back home for 2020 and beyond, Barba has one season to light up Townsville before a likely return to the Sharks.
He’ll create some highlight moments and is the one to watch for mine in 2019. HUGE signing.