Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan admits he’s still working out the best way to use Ben Barba after the 2012 Dally M Medal winner came off the bench to spark the Sharks’ NRL win over Newcastle on Friday.
Barba didn’t enter the fray until just before halftime, slotting in at fullback with Valentine Holmes moving out to the wing at the expense of Michael Gordon.
The move paid off with the former Canterbury and Brisbane star scampering for his first try for the club in the second half of the 22-6 win at a rainswept Remondis Stadium.
His starring cameo role came to an end four minutes before the final siren when he limped off with a knee injury but Flanagan said the club’s medical staff are confident there’s no ligament damage.
“It’s not as bad as first thought, he’ll get some scans tomorrow, hopefully it’s just a muscle strain to the back of his knee and the attachment to his calf,” Flanagan said.
“At first we thought it was ligaments and when players go down you always fear the worst but his ligaments are all in tact.”
The win was the second in succession for the Sharks after a slow start saw them slump to four straight losses.
Barba’s early season contribution at five-eighth came under fire and his recent two-match suspension opened the door for young Jack Bird who has been outstanding at No.6.
The 25-year-old hasn’t been used in the utility bench role since the 2010 season for the Bulldogs but Flanagan said Barba’s versatility makes him a huge addition to his squad although he’s undecided about a long-term plan.
“I haven’t got a clue, I am just going to enjoy the win,” he said.
“Every week there is injuries or suspensions. I’ve got a good footy player in there ready to go and I’ll make a decision on a week-to-week basis.
“Michael (Ennis) has come off twice in recent weeks … and we have lost our way a bit with Jeff Robson going in to nine.
“‘Robbo’ would still go to hooker but Benny gives me that coverage in the halves … and can play in the backs.
“Michael Gordon had to get some painkillers for a shoulder injury and it was good to give him bit of time off. He’ll be better for the rest.”