JT: Barba to bring Mango magic to Cowboys
JOHNATHAN Thurston has hailed Ben Barba the new Matthew Bowen and believes the former Dally M golden boy will bring some 'Mango' magic back to the Cowboys.
Barba will join the Cowboys on a one-year deal next season and has returned to hometown Mackay in recent days after being crowned the English Super League's player of the year following his exploits with St Helens.
The prestigious Man of Steel gong was Barba's reward for 34 tries from as many games at Saints and the Cowboys are banking on Barba's backline brilliance to reignite their finals hopes in 2019.
Barba will wear the decorated No.1 jumper once owned by Bowen, who is revered as the club's greatest fullback, having scored 130 tries from 270 games in Cowboys colours.
For nine seasons, the Thurston-Bowen show was one of the most lethal alliances in the NRL, with the pair combining superbly to steer North Queensland to their maiden grand final in 2005.
Asked if Barba reminds him of fellow indigenous wizard Bowen, the newly-retired Thurston said: "Yes for sure.
"We have seen that attack from Benny throughout his career.
"Having him there at fullback he has a lot of speed, he can change the game in the blink of an eye and that's what we probably lacked throughout this year.
"Ben has a bit of speed, so hopefully he can score some tries for us."
The Cowboys endured a painful free fall last season, crashing to 13th spot, but coach Paul Green is hoping the acquisition of Barba and a fully fit Michael Morgan will engineer a finals recovery.
Barba's signing has major implications for Morgan.
The Cowboys' $5 million man spent time at fullback before bicep surgery ended his nightmare 2018 campaign, but Morgan can now focus on a return to the halves to succeed Thurston as the club's chief shot-caller.
Thurston is confident a playmaking spine headlined by Morgan and Barba will restore the Cowboys as a premiership force.
"The club is in really good shape for next year," Thurston said.
"We will get 'Morgo' back and with Benny Barba, we all know what he can do on a football field. He will fit into our structures really well.
"The boys won't be having a year like we did this season."
Former Queensland and Broncos five-eighth Darren Lockyer said Barba, who turns 30 next June, is still young enough to energise the Cowboys.
"I'm excited to see him coming back," he said.
"The Cowboys have probably missed that ballplayer at the back and Barba will bring a lot of strike for them.
"Matty Bowen gave the Cowboys that flair for many years and Barba has the same natural attacking game.
"Michael Morgan will steer the ship next year in the halves so Ben can be that X-factor for them, I see them jelling well."
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