Raiders wary of Barba’s brilliance

Give Ben Barba an inch and he’ll take a mile.

And Canberra know they can ill-afford to do that if they want to beat Cronulla in Saturday’s qualifying NRL final.

Barba has been one of the competition’s biggest success stories this year, rediscovering the form that won him the 2012 Dally M Medal.

The fullback has been central to the Sharks’ resurgence, scoring 15 tries and lending his hand to 18 others.

Raiders captain Jarrod Croker admits Barba will be a handful at GIO Stadium.

“I think he’s up there with the year he had a couple of years ago,” Croker said on Friday.

“There’s no denying that and there’s no doubting he’s a fantastic player.

“For us, it’s about nullifying his opportunities and working hard together to keep that line.

“You give him a broken line and she’s just about all over.”

According to Fox Sports Stats, Barba has made a team-high 19 linebreaks this season.

The Raiders, though, are the best in the league – led by winger Jordan Rapana (25) and Croker (20).

“I think opposition teams have defended him really well the last few weeks but if they defend Benny well that will create other opportunities around him,” Sharks coach Shane Flanagan said.

“Quality players who have been around the game usually stand up at this time of the year and that is what I’m hoping for tomorrow.”

Despite Barba’s influence, Croker reckons Michael Ennis has been the key to their momentum in 2016.

The retiring hooker has missed just one match: their round 22 loss to the Raiders which ended their 16-game winning streak.

“He gets the big fellas going forward and they create the opportunities for the halves and the likes of Barba and Jack Bird,” added Croker.

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