BEN Barba is resigned to never playing State of Origin, conceding a Queensland jumper is the last thing on his mind as he fights to revive his NRL career with the Cowboys.
The coveted Queensland No.1 jumper is up for grabs next season with Billy Slater’s NRL retirement and the shock departure of Valentine Holmes to the NFL opening the door for a raft of fullback contenders headed by Kalyn Ponga.
Not so long ago, Barba was the understudy being groomed to succeed Slater, named 18th man for Queensland during his magical 2012 season in which he claimed the Dally M Medal.
But now, with Slater having walked away from the Maroons’ No.1 jumper, Barba admits he is at long odds to ever take Billy The Kid’s throne as Queensland look to the future with Ponga.
It seems inconceivable a man talented enough to win a Dally M gong cannot break into the State of Origin arena, but at 29, Barba has all but given up hope of wearing Maroon after a two-year hiatus from the NRL.
“To be honest, I can’t say playing Origin for Queensland is a realistic goal,” he said.
“Obviously I would love to play Origin, but the young guys coming through are getting better and faster and I have to be realistic about where I am in my career.
“In the past, when I’ve started to worry about stuff like Origin, it has affected me mentally, so it’s no longer on my radar.
“I’m looking forward to donning a Cowboys jersey. That’s my main goal next year – to be the fullback for the Cowboys come Round 1.”
While Barba has only signed a 12-month deal after his stunning renaissance in England, where he won Super League’s Man of Steel award, the former Bronco hopes to extend his stint in Townsville.
Barba turns 30 next June and believes his body can withstand another three seasons in the NRL.
“I would love to be here longer,” he said.
“All I can do is focus on my football, train hard, work hard and let my footy do the talking,
“Hopefully that is good enough.
“Even if I’m not the fullback, I’d love to stay up here and hopefully finish my career here. But my first goal is to prove myself again next season.”