Without a fixture this weekend Hemel Stags’ Mitch Barbara has been looking back at the 2014 campaign so far.
The talented Australian had been in outstanding form earlier in the season, the highlight being a try hat-trick performance in the 37-24 victory over Gateshead Thunder in March.
He has been sidelined since breaking his ankle soon after scoring in the home Good Friday defeat to London Skolars, but the positive news is Barbara is on the road to recovery.
“I sustained quite a significant injury early in the season,” he said. “It has been quite a lengthy process and sitting on the sidelines watching the team play each week has been frustrating to say the least.
“The cast comes off in the coming week though, so I can begin my rehab and focus on getting myself back on the pitch. I’m hopeful that I will be able to play a few more games this season.”
Growing up in Australia, Barbara got into Rugby League at an early age.
He said: “My family is very rugby league orientated. My dad signed me up when I was quite young, maybe around the age of five.”
A big North Queensland Cowboys fan, Barbara lists Cowboy legend and current Wigan Warriors full back, Matty Bowen and Australian superstar half-back, Jonathan Thurston amongst his favourite current players.
Australia’s loss has been very much England’s gain, so what made the likeable Australian try his hand in the Northern Hemisphere and join Hemel Stags in particular?
“I thought that living in a different country was an opportunity to gain some invaluable life experiences while being able to play rugby league at the same time.
“I was encouraged late last year to consider playing footy in England and link up with Troy Perkins. He, and the Hemel club, helped me get organised in a relatively short period of time and I was impressed with that.”
Barbara is enjoying his stint in England, and even admits to getting into the football World Cup.
“I was never into Ssccer before heading over but I’ve become more of a fan since I’ve arrived, particularly now that the World Cup has started,” he said. “I also like and appreciate how easy it is to visit other areas of Europe while I’m here.“
Barbara is not too downhearted with the defeat to Hunslet Hawks last Sunday and, despite the loss, remains confident Hemel Stags can approach the remainder of the season with confidence.
“It was probably the toughest game that we’ve played to date,” he said. “Hunslet dominated both possession and field position in the first half and capitalised on the opportunities that they were given. There are a lot of positives that we can take from the weekend’s game, however.
“Despite defending for majority of the first half, we managed to hold Hunslet to 14 points. We had our opportunities to reduce the margin in the second half but failed to finish over the line on more than a few occasions.
“If we completed those plays, the dynamics of the game could have changed considerably.
“However, I think we are still in a good position at this stage of the season. The competition is relatively balanced and the three teams above us on the ladder are still well within reach.
“We have shown that we can match it with them over the course of the season. If we can refine some aspects of our game leading into September, I can’t see why we couldn’t go all the way.”