Ennis retirement fuelling Barba's fire
Sharks fullback Ben Barba couldn't help but shed a tear when Michael Ennis sat with the Cronulla squad at a team lunch and told them he was to retire at the end of the season.
An emotional Barba spoke during the Sharks' camp on the Central Coast last week and threatened to "choke up again" when explaining his love for the veteran hooker.
Ennis's retirement came as a shock to everyone, none more so than Barba and his Sharks teammates.
Now it's up to them to send Ennis out a winner.
Barba has had a rollarcoaster of a career to say the least.
But excluding his lone season at the Broncos in 2014, Ennis has been a constant over the past seven years in the 2012 Dally M Medallist's life.
"Mick has given me the kick up the [backside] when I've needed it but has also been a mate when times were tough," Barba said.
"He's been there with me through my highs and the lows, and he's like one of my brothers. He's been an older brother to me since he arrived at the Bulldogs in 2009.
"Since he's made known his retirement, I've been counting down the games and I'm sure a lot of the other boys are doing the same," he added.
"For a guy who has done so much in the game, to send him out the way he deserves, it would be pretty special to send him out a winner."
With Ennis sure to be nominated for the Dally M Hooker of the Year, Barba wouldn't put one last accolade past the New South Wales Origin representative in his final season.
"There's a few good hookers in this competition in Cameron Smith and Josh Hodgson at Canberra but I'm sure he's in with a great chance," Barba said.
"People watch all the flashy stuff us backs do but what he does for us in the middle is pretty special."
The Sharks will attempt to reverse their three-week slump against the Rabbitohs on Monday night.
A draw with the Titans in Round 21 of the Telstra Premiership has been followed by consecutive losses to the Raiders and Dragons.
Without Ennis for the Raiders game, the Sharks had to deal with the late withdrawal of skipper Paul Gallen against the Red V.
Barba was hopeful Gallen would feature against the Rabbitohs.
"The last few weeks we have really missed our middle men, when Mick didn't play and then 'Gal' on the weekend. They're that glue for us in the middle," Barba said.
"I'm hoping Gal does because Souths have quite a big forward pack and we need every big man possible out there especially with guys like Sam Tagataese out at the moment."