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Bowen: I can't wait to see Barba in my old jersey

Matt Bowen can't wait to see Ben Barba in North Queensland's No.1 jersey and predicts he will light up the NRL with his scintillating running game.

Bowen played 270 NRL games for the Cowboys, the majority of those at fullback where his instinctive play and electrifying speed had crowds on the edge of their seat.

Now retired and working in the club's community department, he sees similarities between Barba's play and his own and predicts a seamless return to the NRL from the Super League for the 2016 Sharks premiership winner.

"Benny Barba has got his own game but he is one of those instinctive players as well who just turns up where the ball is, at the right time and in the right place," Bowen told

"To be honest, I can't wait to see him in that number one jersey for the Cowboys. It will be something special.

"The way he runs the ball and find space, and the way he can find the try line, is what the Cowboys have been missing the last couple of years."

Matt Bowen in action for Australia.
Matt Bowen in action for Australia. ©NRL Photos

As for the Barba, he grew up idolising Bowen and watching his dynamic one-two punch partnership with Johnathan Thurston with awe.

That was a sixth sense operation, a wink and a nod set-up where each knew what the other was about to do.

Barba said Thurston's successor, Michael Morgan, had great "vision" which would help them forge a potent combination.

"Mango [Bowen] is someone I adored growing up, being a North Queensland kid myself," Barba told

"Then I got the chance to play with him and JT in the All Stars and that was quite an experience.

"With Mick Morgan, it is a combination that we are going to have to gel pretty fast. We've been working hard this pre-season to figure out how each other plays so that come the start of the season we are flying and ready to go.

"JT and Mango put on quite a show here for a number of years. I'm not saying we are going to be them, but if we could get this club back to where it was and playing the kind of football they did it would be wonderful.

"Mick is one guy that I said when I got here to the coaches that I felt I could really lean on and make a season of it.

"I know Mick is a very good runner of the ball and that makes the job of the guys outside him a lot easier. When someone like myself comes in from a different system you've got to work hard to build something up. It is a work in progress because it is a whole new spine again."

Bowen has no doubt Barba can become the cult figure that he will always be in North Queensland.

"He is just from down the road at Mackay and very much a home-town hero himself," Bowen said.

"I'm sure he would have wanted to play for the Cowboys when he was younger but now we have got him here I'm certain we will see the old Benny Barba who played so well for Canterbury, Cronulla and St Helens.

"I'm close to Benny. I've known him since he was 15 or 16, maybe younger."

Cowboys legends Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen.
Cowboys legends Johnathan Thurston and Matt Bowen. ©NRL Photos

Barba has matured as a player over the years and said he learned at Cronulla and St Helens to fit in with new systems and not feel the external pressure to try and recreate the way he played for Canterbury in 2012 when he won the Dally M Medal.

"It played on my mind for a little bit but I had to realise that you can't play the same way at different teams," he said.

"It might not be as flashy as Canterbury but it is just about making sure I do my role right.

"It is early days at the Cowboys but whatever Greeny [coach Paul Green] asks of me I have got to do. Hopefully that is good enough to make him happy."

Acknowledgement of Country

North Queensland Cowboys respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.