While not ready to pass on the baton as the NRL's best fullback, Melbourne Storm custodian Billy Slater says Bulldogs No 1 Ben Barba is a special talent who can do things even he can't.
Barba has been a major force behind Canterbury's surge to the top of the NRL ladder, showing his class to score two tries in their last round win over Brisbane.
Such is the excitement over the 23-year-old, one betting agency has already paid out on Barba winning the Dally M medal as the game's best player despite three rounds remaining.
Slater, who won the prestigious award last year, said he loved watching Barba play.
"Ben Barba's got his own unique talents. He can do things that I certainly can't do," said Slater yesterday. "He's a tremendous player and I, like everyone else, enjoy watching him play ...
"He's been a tremendous excitement machine for our game."
Slater got to know Barba, also from far north Queensland, when the youngster was 18th man for the Maroons in game two of the Origin series and said he was a "modest kid".
He said Barba's late-season form was proof of how hard he had worked to improve the deficiencies in his game, with defence now a strength.
"He's worked a lot on his game; you see errors in his game last year that he's rectified and he's obviously worked pretty hard ... on the training paddock."