The Brisbane Broncos have backed former teammate Ben Barba to continue his stellar 2016 season – earmarking the livewire fullback as the Sharks' danger man come Sunday's clash with Cronulla-Sutherland at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
Barba has been a standout for the Sharks this year, with the 26-year-old close to recapturing the same form that saw him win the 2012 Dally M Medal.
It's form Barba had hoped he would find when he joined the Broncos from the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in 2014, but Barba failed to flourish in Brisbane and left at the end of the same year – seeing out less than 12 months of a three-year contract.
Now in his second year at the Sharks, Barba has cemented his spot in his preferred position of fullback, seeing off tough competition from teammates Jack Bird and Valentine Holmes.
Brisbane's Jack Reed became great friends with Barba during his short stint at the Broncos and the workhorse centre is loving seeing his mate do well at the Sharks.
"I was good mates with 'Barbs' when he was here at the Broncos. I'm pretty close with his family and it's good to see him down there doing so well," Reed said.
"I think it's a credit to his work ethic. I'm pretty close with a few of the lads down there and they've said he went down there and had one of the best pre-seasons they've seen.
"It's a full credit to him because he's turned himself around and it's great to see."
Barba often partnered Broncos halfback Ben Hunt in the halves in his one season at Brisbane, with then coach Anthony Griffin preferring Josh Hoffman at the back as the season progressed.
Playing out of position wasn't something Barba enjoyed, but Hunt says Barba never once complained and always did his best for the club.
"He fitted in really well around the club. He was a great lad to have around and a good bloke," Hunt said.
"I know he wanted to play fullback but I didn't ever hear him whingeing about not being there when he was made to play five-eighth. He was always happy to play every week and give his best
"It's pleasing see him doing so well. When you watch him play you can see that he's really enjoying his footy down there and he's back to some of the best form he's ever been in.
"He's a big key for them and I really enjoy seeing him play that brand of footy he's playing at the moment. In saying that, hopefully we can shut him down this weekend."
Barba will not be the only threat for the Broncos to worry about this weekend, with Cronulla-Sutherland's potent backline helping the Sharks dispel thoughts that their team can't score points.
The Sharks sit fourth in points scored this season and Hunt says although their whole backline is playing well, their stellar points scoring form is thanks largely to two of Cronulla-Sutherland's youngest stars.
"Their whole backline is pretty good at the moment. It's a very young and strong looking line-up," he said.
"Holmes's is pretty handy and Bird's playing very well on the edge so they will be hard to handle."