Barba makes startling admission about Origin vacancy
QUEENSLAND'S No.1 jersey may be up for grabs but Ben Barba has all but ruled himself out of contention, admitting State of Origin is an unrealistic goal at the age of 29.
Former Dally M Medallist Barba is available for Origin selection in 2019 after returning from the UK Super League to sign a one-year NRL deal with North Queensland.
He has never played for Queensland but his chances of finally donning the Maroons jersey have improved after Billy Slater's retirement and Valentine Holmes's shock departure to chase his NFL dream.
Barba appeared to have regained his form after a stellar Super League stint for St Helens where he claimed the Man of Steel Award, the equivalent of the Dally M Medal.
However, Barba - who turns 30 in June - said it was impractical to think he could threaten the likes of Newcastle's 20-year-old Kalyn Ponga for the Maroons No.1 spot next year.
"To be honest, I can't say playing Origin for Queensland is a realistic goal," he said.
"Obviously I would love to play Origin but the young guys coming through are getting better and faster and I have to be realistic about where I am in my career.
"In the past, when I've started to worry about stuff like Origin, it has affected me mentally; so it's no longer on my radar.
"I'm looking forward to donning a Cowboys jersey.
"That's my main goal next year, to be the fullback for the Cowboys come round one."
While Origin may not be on his radar, Barba said he was determined to make the most of his Cowboys lifeline and hoped to play for another three NRL seasons.
"I would love to be here longer," Barba said.
"All I can do is focus on my football, train hard, work hard and let my footy do the talking.
"Hopefully that is good enough.
"Even if I'm not the fullback, I'd love to stay up here and hopefully finish my career here.
"But my first goal is to prove myself again next season."
Barba was offered a 12-month deal by the Cowboys, who left the NRL in disgrace in 2016.
He was sacked by Cronulla after a positive test for cocaine following the Sharks' NRL premiership win.