Barba was ready to walk away from NRL
Sharks fullback Ben Barba believes he would've walked away from the NRL and returned home to Mackay at season's end if his huge return to form never eventuated.
Barba has played every game at fullback for Cronulla in 2016 and has been one of the side's shining lights in a largely positive start to the season for the club.
However this season could've headed in an entirely different direction if he hadn't lived up to his own expectations, with Barba under the impression this year was his last chance to prove himself despite being under contract until the end of next season.
"I would have been pretty close to giving up if I didn't turn up this year and perform. I knew I had one more chance to give it my all. I was sick and tired of playing [poorly] and I guess I was wanting to get that confidence back and start enjoying it again," Barba said.
"I sat down with Daly (childhood friend and Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans) about footy growing up and how much we enjoyed it. I wasn't getting the same feeling there for a bit.
"I worked really hard with the people here at the club and I'm thankful they believed in me and knew what I could do. I'm glad I'm still here. You see the smile on my face now, I'm enjoying it again and I'm having fun."
Barba said this season is the closest he's been to reaching the form that won him the 2012 Dally M Medal.
"I'm just enjoying my footy at the moment. I've worked really hard over the last few years. I know it was a rough patch but deep down I was working my guts out trying to find something," he said.
"I have back my belief and confidence in myself and I'm enjoying my footy which is showing."
The 26-year-old added the Sharks' well-documented battle for the fullback role is now over considering his form. This despite teammates Valentine Holmes and Jack Bird pushing their claim for Barba's No. 1 jumper over the off-season.
"I think I deserve it and I'm glad with the performances I've put in so far. Fullback isn't easy and isn't always about the flashy stuff that people want to see," Barba said.
"I guess you're the last line of defence sometimes and you have to organise a tired forward pack so it's tough.
"I'm just glad I have young guys here that I can hopefully rub off on in time so that when it is time to walk away they can say they learned something from me."
The Sharks' 25-20 win over the Titans could have quickly turned into tragedy after Chris Heighington's son Rocco was ran over by cart retrieving sponsorship signs moments after the victory.
In footage of the incident, Barba's face was one of pure shock as he watched teammates Andrew Fifita and Sam Tagataese lift the cart so to free young Heighington – who wasn't injured in the incident.
"A lot of us are fathers and to put yourself into Chris's shoes, you wouldn't wish that upon anyone. I was going to get my kids at the time too so I suppose I'll second guess about getting them over the fence quickly now," Barba said.
"The good thing about Shark Park is the kids being allowed on the field so I think maybe next time the guys packing up can wait a little bit longer and let the fans and players celebrate.
"No disrespect to the ground staff but that's the way they probably should go. I'm just glad little Rocco is fine now."