Ben Barba’s misguided decision to dabble with drugs has cost Cronulla one member of their grand-final winning squad but it may end up saving the bulk of the backline that carried the Sharks to their maiden premiership.
Barba was among five key members of the club’s backline coming off contract at the end of next season, a group headed by winger Valentine Holmes and centre Jack Bird.
Holmes, in particular, continues to skyrocket in value as he cuts a swath through Europe as a member of the Kangaroos’ Four Nations squad. Interest was already at a high in the Queenslander but his performance in the grand final and form for Australia since have seen his value rise exponentially in recent weeks.
While the Sharks may have been reluctant to take a risk by outlaying big money on Holmes as a winger, he would more than justify a significant pay rise should he slot in at fullback.