Ben Barba has been linked to a NRL return on a one-year deal with North Queensland.Former NRL bad boy Ben Barba will prove to be such a success at North Queensland that the club will have no choice but to sign him to a long-term deal.
That’s the opinion of Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan amid reports the Cowboys are on the cusp of signing the former Sharks star to a one-year deal for next year.
The development comes as Cronulla fullback Valentine Holmes weighs up the option of returning home to Townsville when his contract expires at the end of next season.
Holmes continued his hot form in the Sharks’ final game of the regular season on Sunday, scoring a try and setting up three others in another slick display.
However Sharks captain Paul Gallen stopped short of prematurely crowning him a club great.
“He’s 23 years old. He’s a terrific player, we know that. We’ll call him a club great when he signs a new four-year contract hopefully,” Gallen said.
Flanagan insisted any talks about an extension have been put off for the summer.
“He spoke to his manager and they know where it is. We’re not doing any negotiations with it until after the semi-final series,” he said.
“It’s just too hard. I’m sure Val appreciates not the talk going on during the week. He’s got a really big semi-final series and we just don’t talk to them about it.”
With the Cowboys believed to be keen on signing Barba, 29, on a one-year contract, Flanagan fears the rival club still harbours a desire to lure Holmes back to Queensland.
But he predicted Barba, who helped the Sharks to their maiden premiership in 2016, would prove to be a long-term fit for the Cowboys.
“If you listen to what the Cowboys’ mantra was about it, (coach Paul Green is) making sure he fits the club. But if I know Benny Barba, he’ll go up there and be a star,” Flanagan said.
“It’ll be hard for the Cowboys then to say, ‘Thanks for your services. After one year, off you go’.
“He’s a quality player, Benny Barba, and we know what he added to our team. I’m pretty sure he’s going to add it to that team up there.
“I’ve been watching closely what he’s been doing in the UK. It has been special.”