Has there been a more naturally gifted attacking rugby league player? Matthew Bowen… Benji Marshall… Billy Slater… Greg Inglis… no question they’re all superstars – but no-one has ever before shown the ability to turn games on their heads so often and against the odds like Ben Barba has in 2012. The custodian has an unrivalled knack for reading plays; it’s like his mind is functioning five seconds ahead of the clock.
It’s the play that has bamboozled many an opponent. Usually called from a quick play-the-ball on the right edge of the field, hooker Cameron Smith will fire a ball wide to Cooper Cronk on the right who quickly shoots an inside pass – often while looking the other way – to a flying Billy Slater to steam into the gap. It’s a move that all sides are aware of, but stopping it is another thing.