NRL Expert @JennaBrooks
NRL Talking Points: Ben Barba's future and NRL feuds
Last Updated: 10/07/18 2:47pm
Jenna Brooks has the latest on Ben Barba's future, plus more details on the feud that has stormed through the NRL.
Ben Barba has been the talk of Super League all year and reports have been linking him with a return to the NRL for the best part of 2018, but over the last few weeks speculation has gathered momentum.
The former Cronulla fullback is contracted to St Helens until the end of next year, but it's looking like the star player will head back to Australia at the close of this season, with his former side eager to re-sign the 2012 Dally M winner.
Former teammate and good friend Wade Graham told NRL.com the Sharks would 'definitely welcome him back.'
"He's playing tremendous. I don't know what he's paying to be the Man of Steel but he'd definitely be short," Graham said.
"I know he's got another year at St Helens and we've seen, especially over the last couple of years that it's getting more challenging for players to leave the Super League to come back.
"With Benny a lot of water has to go under the bridge, it's an easy answer, of course we welcome him back. He's a world class player, he can walk through the Shark Park doors anytime and he'll get a warm welcome."
It's believed Barba's partner is homesick and a release on compassionate grounds is being considered. But Saints fans don't get too concerned just yet. Chairman Eamonn McManus has dismissed the rumours.
If Barba does return it would leave Valentine Holmes future with Cronulla in serious doubt.
Holmes, the Australia and Queensland representative, has been linked with a move away from the Shire, with North Queensland favourites for his signature.
The feud between Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater continues to dominate headlines Down Under.
In last week's article I mentioned the frosty exchange between Smith and Cronk after Melbourne's round 16 win over the Sydney Roosters. Well there are claims in Australia that suggest the players wives may have sparked the fallout.
A Sydney Morning Herald reporter said the feud began between Smith and Slater's wives before an Australia representative family-friendly holiday to Fiji during last year's World Cup.
It's been a few weeks since reports emerged that there was an issue between Smith and Slater, and the star fullback was forced to respond to these reports, insisting he doesn't have an issue with either Smith or Cronk.
"I have no problems with Cam. Cam and I are fine, Cooper and I are fine," Slater said.
"I am not going to stand here and gossip about other people's relationships, as far as I am concerned I am OK with everyone."
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy has also played down the feud.
"I don't know what's happened between them," Bellamy said. "If there's an issue, you'd like to see them work it out although it's a personal thing and it's their own business. I've got a really good relationship with both of them and I'm going to keep it that way."
Speculation that Smith and Cronk had fallen out began shortly after Cronk made the announcement that after 14 years of service, he was leaving Melbourne to join the Sydney Roosters.
Despite NSW already wrapping up the 2018 Origin series - just their second in 13 years, the gloves are off ahead of game III.
Brad Fittler has suggested Cameron Smith retired before the start of the Origin series because he was scared of the NSW side.
"For whatever reason he might have thought we were picking 11 players that were harder than what he wanted to take on this year," Fittler said
"When you look at it and talk about how experience is so (valuable) in Origin, we had 11 blokes in the first game beat a team that out-weighed us by how many Origin games?"
With players like Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk missing from the Maroons this year, questions have been raised on the credibility of the Blues victory.
"NSW has done a really good job at winning just about everything. They've won all the age groups the last few years, they've won the women now and obviously Queensland have fallen behind somewhere," Fittler argued.
The Blues will be hoping for a clean sweep tomorrow when they play Queensland in the final game of this year's series, live on Sky Sports.
After month's of speculation, Canterbury centre Josh Morris has signed a two-year deal with Cronulla from next season, where he'll link up with former Bulldogs teammate Aaron Woods, who signed with the Sharks last month.
Morris and his twin brother, Brett are both off-contract at the end of 2018 and with the Bulldogs salary cap issues, rumours have been circulating on where the pair will play next year.
Cronulla's coaching staff and players are delighted with the new signing. Former Leeds hooker James Segeyaro believes Morris will not only bolster the Sharks backline, but bring a huge amount of experience to the club.
"He's a class player and has done everything in the game, so we're pretty excited," Segeyaro said.
Josh joins Woods, Moses Mbye, James Graham and Josh Reynolds, who have all been forced to leave the Bulldogs in the last 12 months due to the club's salary cap issues.
While Josh's future is clear, his brother's still remains uncertain. But one thing is for sure, they won't be playing together next season.
You can see Cronulla in action against Penrith on Friday morning, live on Sky Sports Arena.