HUDDERSFIELD Giants’ Ryan Hinchcliffe believes star NRL signing Ben Barba is a “coup” for Super League even if he is yet to set the competition alight.
The controversial Australian full-back will make his third appearance for St Helens when they host Huddersfield tonight.
He joined in May after a brief stint with Toulon but still had to serve a 12-game ban after testing positive for cocaine just days after Cronulla Sharks’ Grand Final win last October.
Barba, 26, gave an erratic performance as Saints left it late to win at Wakefield and keep their top-four hopes alive last week.
Former Melbourne Storm loose forward Hinchcliffe has faced him many times and, despite his chequered background, said: “He’s very strong, elusive and a very good player. He had a great year in 2016 with the Sharks and he’ll add something to that team.
“It’ll take a while for him to find his feet but he’s a talented player and it’s a coup, for sure; he’s a former Dally M Medal winner, was sensational last season and he’s exciting.
He’s still only young so his best footy is probably still ahead of him and he’s at a good club in St Helens.Huddersfield Giants’ Ryan Hinchcliffe on St Helens’ Ben Barba
“He’s still only young so his best footy is probably still ahead of him and he’s at a good club in St Helens.”
Although keeping the ex-Canterbury star in check will be key to Huddersfield’s chances tonight, they also need to concentrate on their own form.
Rick Stone’s side, who spent the first half of the season near bottom, delivered a woeful 52-14 defeat at Salford last week to end their own unlikely top-four bid.
After so much progress in recent months, Hinchcliffe conceded it was a painful experience.
He added: “For a lot of us, Salford was a bad day out and we need to make sure we turn up with the right attitude, because that’s what we missed on the weekend. To beat St Helens we’ll have to be a lot better otherwise it’ll be a tough day again.
“And Saints are going to be hungry, aren’t they? But I think for us this week, it’s about us.
“We’ve had a good second half of the year and built some team spirit through that time – now it’s about protecting that and making sure we have a strong finish going into next year.
“We have to make sure we don’t lose any credibility and we don’t switch off.”