FORMER Australia star Trent Barrett says his return to the NRL next year with Cronulla has saved him from quitting and given him hope of ending both his and the Sharks premiership drought.
Barrett signed a two-year deal worth $600,000 to join the Sharks after his English club Wigan agreed to release him from the final season of his lucrative three-year contract.
The former St George Illawarra captain is the second marquee signing at the Sharks for next year, joining Australia and NSW forward Anthony Tupou who will come from the Sydney Roosters.
The Sharks have been forced to offload half-back Brett Kimmorley to the Bulldogs to accommodate 30-year-old Barrett’s return, but the former NSW five-eighth says he’s come back to chase an elusive NRL premiership with the title-less Sharks.
â€œThey’re a club without a premiership and I’m a player without being able to achieve winning a premiership yet,” Barrett told the Nine Network.
Barrett fell one win shy of a grand final appearance in both 2005 and 2006 with the Dragons and has no qualms joining the red and whites’ fiercest rivals.
â€œI have been gone for two years now and I think there’s a lot of water that has passed under the bridge and I think I have moved on from the club and the club has moved on from me,” Barrett said.
Barrett’s return to the NRL has been a hot topic since it emerged he was keen to leave Wigan because his wife was pregnant and homesick.
But the process to receive a formal release took longer than expected as Wigan weren’t keen to agree until they found a capable replacement, which was revealed last week was likely to be former Parramatta star half-back Tim Smith.
Barrett said he would have quit rugby league had Wigan not agreed to let him return home with his wife.
â€œIf (Wigan) wanted to they could have knocked it on the head and I would not have been playing anywhere next year,” he said.
Sharks coach Ricky Stuart was excited about securing Barrett’s services, even if their only previous experience together was NSW’S heart-breaking Origin I 24-20 loss to Queensland in extra time in 2005.
â€œI’m extremely excited about having Trent join the club,” Stuart said.
â€œI’ve got no doubt he will be very good for the Sharks both on and off the field.”
Barrett played 11 Test matches for Australia and seven times for NSW before he joined Wigan in 2007.
His game has continued to go from strength to strength in the UK, winning the Rugby League Writers Association Player of the Year award in his debut English season.
Cronulla star Greg Bird may be the current Test and NSW five-eighth but says he will happily play in the back row alongside Blues teammates Paul Gallen and Anthony Tupou next year to accommodate Barrett’s return.
â€œHe is probably the best five-eighth in the world at the moment when (Darren) Lockyer is injured,” Bird said.
â€œIt’s going to be great to have him in the team.
â€œI will quite happily play in the forwards with him there.”