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Barba set to flick 'on' switch

Matt Harris, Queensland Correspondent NRL.com Wed, Jul 30, 2014 - 6:00 AM

Ben Barba says he's warming to the task of setting the Broncos' backline alight in his new position outside halfback Ben Hunt. Copyright: Col Whelan.

It was a move designed to spark life out of a fading star, jolting a career that had inexplicably begun to stagnate in a position in which he had excelled at a different club.

After 18 frustrating rounds in the custodian's role, a decision was made to switch big-money Broncos signing Ben Barba to five-eighth against the Warriors in order to replicate something close to the form the former Bulldogs' star displayed during his Dally M season of 2012.

The 25-year-old has now revealed it was a mutual decision agreed between coach Anthony Griffin and himself to experiment with the five-eighth move two weeks ago and which will continue against the Sea Eagles on Friday night.

"It was a bit of both. Obviously you can't call the shots as a player, that's the reason we have coaches," Barba said.

"I sort of gave him the idea but at the end of the day it was 'Hook's' [Griffin's] decision to make the call and he was happy to go with it. Even though we've won one and lost one [since the switch], I thought it has gone all right.

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"'Hoffy's' (Josh Hoffman's) first two games back at fullback have gone really well."

Having played in the halves coming through the ranks, the five-eighth role is one Barba had little NRL playing experience in during his six seasons with the Bulldogs, appearing in the No.6 jersey on only eight occasions, although he says he is now enjoying his new position at the Broncos.

"It hasn’t been too bad, I'm definitely enjoying it and it's been a bit of a change and I'm looking forward to the last couple of rounds," he said.

"The first week was a bit rough – we tried to hide [the move] from [the media] so I didn’t get a really good training run under my belt before the Warriors game.

"Last week after having a whole week of training at five-eighth meant that I was going into the game a lot more comfortable and it was easier."

The switch from fullback to five-eighth for the Broncos has been purely tactical according to Barba, with the Broncos coaching department looking to see the speedster touch the Steeden more often during games.

"Playing up in the line gets me a bit more involved in the game earlier and it gets my head around that I'm actually in a football game," he said.

"Sometimes you might not touch the ball [at fullback] in the first five minutes if things are going the other team's way, so it's a lot easier to get yourself into the game. Especially with me being up there [in the defensive line] early on I know I'm going to get a bit of traffic.

"What I did at the 'Dogs and here is two different playing styles. I probably got the ball a little bit more down there than up here so [playing] at five-eighth now might allow me to get the ball a bit more so we'll see what happens."

Season 2014 has been a tough one for the Norths Devils Mackay junior, who has been constantly berated by fans and the media, with the 'Are you ever going to be the player you were in 2012?' questions being constantly asked since the beginning of the season.

The never-ending barrage regarding his form has affected Barba, but he is hoping his continued development in the famous No. 6 of the Broncos will spark the Ben Barba of old into life.

"I won't lie to you – it has [affected me]. But I don’t want to dwell on it much because I get asked this question every time I face [the media]," he said.
 
"Hopefully [my Dally M season] wasn't a fluke. It's my first year at the club and I've got another two years here and hopefully longer.

"Hopefully I can make something of playing five-eighth now and who knows what will happen.

"I know if I work my guts off and try and find that [form] hopefully it will come back."