Ben Barba kicks 13 goals in Aussie rules debut
BEN BARBA booted 13 goals and looked every bit the natural footballer in his senior Aussie rules debut for Eastern Swans.
Barba bagged seven goals in Reserve Grade, before backing up for the Swans seniors less than two hours later, where he kicked another six.
The former NRL star was deployed out of the goalsquare by Swans Reserve Grade coach Kane Evans and, often with up to three defenders trailing him, put the scoring load on his back.
"We could tell he was pretty skilful, so we put him one-out in the goalsquare. We were hoping he would get 10," Evans said.
"There's not many people who can do that week in, week out. It was a very big effort from Benny."
It was the 31 year old's first games of Aussie rules since he played a handful of games as a junior.
Barba tried his hand at soccer last year and impressed in patches for Rangers in the Mackay Premier League.
But his prodigious rugby league talent translates much better to Aussie rules and, on Saturday, the former Dally M winner proved he's still got it.
The stage at Magpies Sporting Club was a far cry from Sydney's ANZ Stadium, the venue at which he helped Cronulla to the 2016 NRL Premiership.
But Barba looked as relaxed on a long lead from the goalsquare at Magpies as he did under a high ball in the in-goal in front of 80,000 people.
Senior Swans coach Graham Adams saw enough from Barba to call him into the A-Grade side later that afternoon.
With nine regulars missing from his starting side, Adams sent Barba to the goalsquare again.
Against harder opposition but with better supply, Barba again proved the matchwinner in a game some thought the Swans might lose because of their outs.
As an AFL Queensland Hall of Fame inductee, Adams knows his fair share about Aussie rules.
He played 22 games for Queensland and previously coached Sandgate in the QAFL.
He said Barba's natural ability stood out, even alongside those who had played Aussie rules their entire life.
"I just think he knows where to run and reads the play so well. That's his main attribute," Adams said.
"As far as understanding the game is concerned, he still has a long way to go. But his ability to find space … he's very good."
Poor Evans will likely have to resign himself to the fact Barba's seven-goal Reserve Grade haul was a one-off.
"He's right for the year now," Adams said of Barba's place in seniors.
"Ben's pretty special."