Ben Barba AKA "The Superfreak"
He is the name on every rugby league fans lips.by NRL
He is the name on every rugby league fans lips. The media can't get enough of him, the Bulldogs fans love him, and opposition teams' fans wish their team had him. I am talking of course about Ben Barba, the Dally M medal favourite and the latest superstar to emerge in the NRL.
Not since Preston Campbell took out the Dally M medal in 2001 has the game seen such a diminutive and indigenous player capture the attention of the rugby league world for feats of individual brilliance. The form of Ben Barba in season 2012 has been compared to the scintillating run of form displayed by Jarryd Hayne in the back end of the 2009 competition that propelled the Eels to the NRL Grand Final, only Barba's run of form is still continuing.
It has been 8 long years since the Bulldogs fans have had a player capture their hearts and imaginations like Ben Barba. In 2004 a young superstar named Sonny Bill Williams burst onto the scene and helped the Bulldogs to their most recent NRL premiership. Fast forward to 2012 and Ben Barba is the player that has captured the Bulldogs fans hearts and minds and has dared them to dream that another premiership is possible out Canterbury way.
Being a Bulldogs fan for 35 years, the crowd reaction to Barba when he gets the ball in his hands takes me back to the late 70's and early 80's when a young wild haired firebrand named Geoff Robinson used to play. Robinson was a crowd favourite due to his fearless running style and when he got the ball in his hands the crowd on the hill would rise and a loud cheer would ring out. Ben Barba has that same aura. You can just feel it at games. When Barba gets the ball in his hands the crowd rises as one in expectation of another piece of magic. The roar when he evades a tackle or makes a break is electrifying.
It has been a phenomenal rise for Ben Barba. In 2007 he was playing park football for the Mackay Devils in North Queensland and was blitzing opposition teams. Unwanted by the Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys, who assumed he was too small for NRL, the Bulldogs took a chance and offered the young gun an opportunity to show his wares in their lower grades. Barba accepted but it was still a big decision to leave family and friends at age 17 to live in the big city of Sydney.
Ben Barba debuted for the Bulldogs mid-way through the Jersey Flegg competition of 2007 and had an immediate impact helping the young Bulldogs side to the preliminary final. Most notable was his attacking ability with ball in hand and his incredible speed. It was this speed that allowed Barba to score some unbelievable tries, many of them long range efforts. It wasn't long before Ben Barba became a try scoring machine across all grades for the Bulldogs.
Fast forward to 2012 and Ben Barba is still a try scoring machine who is now setting the NRL alight with his freakish try scoring ability. What many Bulldogs fans will be unaware of is the fact that in just 5 and a half seasons Ben Barba has rocketed to third on the list of the Bulldogs all time leading try scorers across all grades. In just 136 games for the Bulldogs in all grades, Ben Barba has scored an amazing 137 tries meaning he is currently averaging just over 1 try for every game he has played. To put this achievement into greater perspective you only need to look at the list of the Bulldogs leading try scorers and the number of games played.
Bulldogs legend Hazem El Masri tops the list with 194 tries across all grades. Hazem played 372 games for the Bulldogs to achieve this honour.
The player who currently sits at number 2 on the list will no doubt surprise many Bulldogs fans. Trent Cutler, the current captain of the Bulldogs NSW Cup side has a tremendous strike rate and has scored 151 tries from 218 games with the opportunity still available to add to his tally.
Then comes Ben Barba who as previously mentioned has scored 137 tries from only 136 matches in his career so far. It is a strike rate that is almost unmatched in the history of the Bulldogs club. Even one of the Bulldogs all time greatest players and renowned try scorer, Terry Lamb, scored 123 tries for the Bulldogs from 262 career games.
At NRL level Ben Barba has scored 62 tries from only 77 games putting his strike rate in the top 3 for current players in the NRL behind only Brett Stewart from the Manly Sea Eagles and Akuila Uate from the Newcastle Knights.
The big question going forward is "Can Barba continue with his try scoring prowess?" Opposition teams now realise what a danger player he is and will mark him closely, although after scoring 23 tries last season and 20 tries already this season it appears that opposition teams will continue to struggle to contain him.
So what of the future for Ben Barba? Last season he tied the record for most tries in an NRL season with Nigel Vagana with 23 tries. This season he has the opportunity to eclipse that total and be the outright record holder for the Bulldogs.
At just 23 years of age and hopefully with a fortunate run with injuries Ben Barba could set a try scoring record at the Bulldogs that will never be broken. At present he is on track to pass the record held by Hazem El Masri in almost half the amount of games that it took El Masri to compile it and based on his current strike rate 300 career tries, (although very far away), is not out of the question.
Only time will tell, but with "the Superfreak", nothing is out of the question. But for now the question on all rugby league fans lips is "What is he going to do next?"
Follow rleague.com on Facebook
View profile pages including statistics, results, news, photos and more on all of the following...