Matt Harris, Queensland Correspondent
Ben Barba says the feel-good factor is finally floating back into his game in the wake of his first hat-trick in more than two years and shapes as the catalyst for a Broncos finals push.
Brisbane's latest No.6 claimed the fifth hat-trick of his career against the Knights last Friday and is beginning to show glimpses of his 2012 Dally M-winning form.
His 11-minute scoring spree helped the Broncos record a 42-point victory over the Knights, taking his season tally to seven tries and keeping Brisbane's season alive in the process.
Barba's form reversal has been a timely one for the Broncos as they prepare for Friday's do-or-die clash against the Dragons at Suncorp Stadium, with the 25-year-old stating that he is beginning to feel at home in Brisbane after initialling struggling in the opening half of the season following his switch from the Bulldogs during the summer.
There has been notable improvement in Barba's game during the second half of the season and it now appears the Darwin-born speedster has settled into his new role at five-eighth.
Barba's progression can be traced back since Brisbane's clash against the Raiders in Round 13. Prior to that match Barba had only one try and one line break on his stats sheet, but in the 10 matches since he has managed a further six tries and seven line breaks.
Four tries and three of his line breaks have come in the six games since his switch to five-eighth in Round 19 against the Warriors and in another sign Barba has turned a corner, the Norths Mackay junior is once again blowing kisses to the crowd with a toothy grin back on his face.
"I'm starting to feel good about the way I'm playing and hopefully I can continue with what I did on the weekend," said Barba, who has 79 tries from 119 NRL games.
"Obviously [not scoring tries] does get frustrating. You can't be a 10-out-of-10 player every week but you can be somewhere near it. It's always good to finally cross the stripe a few times and the boys were joking about it after the game.
"But it's finally pleasing to put some more performances together and I'm hoping we can now squeeze into the eight somewhere."
Barba may have to do his own squeezing in next season with the impending arrival of Anthony Milford set to provide incoming coach Wayne Bennett a selection dilemma, not to mention the rumoured arrival of Darius Boyd from the Knights.
However, Barba has once again declared his allegiance with the Broncos, stating that he has no intentions on leaving Brisbane.
"Well [Milford's arrival] is out of my control. I'm contracted here until 2016 and I have no plans on moving again. I'm happy up here in Queensland now and I'd like to finish my career up here," he said.
"Whatever happens happens. My job here is finishing off strongly in these last two games and hope we make the finals."
If the Broncos do manage to win their final two games against the Dragons and Storm they'll still require other results to fall their way in order to avoid missing the finals in consecutive seasons.
It's an equation that won't become clearer until the conclusion of Round 25 and Barba says his teammates are fully aware of what's in front of them.
"This time of the year we have to look [at the ladder] because we need some teams to lose and things to go our way to try and scrape in there," he said.
"Our focus now is these next two games and if we can grab those last four [competition] points we have a great chance and we'll hope for the best from the other sides."