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NZ move a timely tonic in new Blue Barnett’s rise

In an ironic twist it took leaving New South Wales and his country of birth altogether for Mitch Barnett to finally put himself in the frame for Blues selection.

After eight seasons at the Knights, in which he often played second fiddle to bigger name middle forwards such as David Klemmer and the Saifiti brothers Daniel and Jacob – who all became state representatives – it’s on the other side of the Tasman that Barnett has been able to emerge from the shadows and flourish.

After being named in Michael Maguire’s new-look squad for the series opener, the 30-year-old becomes just the second player ever to be selected for New South Wales while playing for the Warriors, following on from Ryan Hoffman in 2015.

Averaging 149 metres per game with a 93 percent tackle efficiency so far this season, Barnett is on track to achieve career-best numbers on both sides of the ball and was quick to acknowledge the importance of his move to New Zealand and his teammates for his current form.

“I’ve been around some really good front-rowers, David Klemmer and the Saifiti boys just to name a few, and I didn’t think of it like a fresh start, but I wanted to come here to the Warriors and show my value,” Barnett said.

Michael Maguire talks NSW Blues team or Origin I

“I’m just excited for the moment…. Origin selection speaks for itself in terms of my form.

“My selection is the result of this team. It's an individual moment, but without the boys around me doing their job I don’t get to do it.

I’ll just keep doing what I'm doing. As the old saying goes you leave with the girl you went to the dance with. This is what brought me to the dance, so I'll just keep doing it.

Mitch Barnett

News of the Wingham-born enforcer’s selection in the NSW squad added to an already emotional dressing room on Sunday night in Auckland, after the injury-hit Warriors upset the Dolphins 24-20 to make it two wins in a row.

In a 73-minute shift Barnett ran for more metres than another other forward on the field (174) and made 24 tackles.

Warriors teammate Jazz Tevaga said it was a significant moment for the players after many of them watched as Barnett overcame the prospect of being forced into retirement by a serious neck injury last year.

“Just so happy for him, the season that he's having, think back to last year when he was going to retire because of the neck,” Tevaga told

“The effort and the hard work that he's put in to get back; he's been our best player by far this year.

"After Ads (Addin Fonua-Blake) and Payne (Haas) he has been the third best prop in the game.

Jazz Tevaga

“He is unreal.”

While listed in jersey 20 and outside of the playing 17 at this stage, Barnett gives Maguire the bonus of being able to switch seamlessly between prop, lock and the second row, which he has done throughout 2024 for the Warriors.

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