AT HIS peak, Ben Barba was one of the most talented players in the NRL.
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He scored over 100 tries across his professional career, won both the Dally M Medal and the European Super League's equivalent and represented the Indigenous All Stars on six separate occasions.
And there was a big possibility he could've lined up in the Peter McDonald Premiership (PMP) in 2024.
Rumours had been circling in the off-season, linking him to the Bathurst Panthers but unfortunately we won't see him out in Western Division next year, after he signed for Mackay and District Rugby League's Sarina Crocodiles.
But Barba did confirm to the Western Advocate that there was - and still is - a push from Bathurst boy and No Limit Boxing CEO Matt Rose to get him out here to play.
"There was actually a bit of talk. Matt [Rose] lives out here and he's still trying," he said.
"I'll never put a full stop at the end of it."
Barba didn't rule out the possibility of playing for the Panthers in 2025, but said he's just focused on moving back to his hometown of Mackay in 2024
"I'm getting towards the high side of my 30s now, so I'll be trying to take in as much life experience as possible," he said.
"I was away for a bit this year, so I just wanted to move back to my hometown. Who knows, even after next year I might find myself down here, running around to my time's up."
Barba was one of a number of NRL stars at Mount Panorama on Thursday, November 16, where it was announced that Bathurst would host the 2024 Koori Knockout.
Barba was not a part of the last knockout in Bathurst back in 2011, but he's excited to be a part of it next year.
"After being here and seeing all the excitement from not just the Indigenous community but from Bathurst itself, it's pretty special," he said.
"It's just a shame you have to wait a whole year till the time comes. The build up to it will be pretty good.
"I'm really looking forward to this one."
There's been plenty of young Indigenous talent that made a name for themselves in the knockout in years gone by, such as Cody Walker in Bathurst back in 2011.
Barba reckons next year Bathurst will definitely see a future NRL star in action.
"There's so much talent," he said.
"There's 18, 19-year-old's, stepping up into the men's division every year.
"The talent we see at the knockout every year is outstanding."
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