BEN BARBA picked up where he left off last season with a three-try, man-of-the-match performance for the Indigenous All Stars, despite playing just 60 minutes before succumbing to a hamstring injury.
The Canterbury star insisted the injury was not serious but he came from the field at three-quarter time and took no further part in the Indigenous team's win over the NRL All Stars at Suncorp Stadium before a crowd of 41,201.
The win was a great start to the season for not only Barba but also NSW Origin coach Laurie Daley, who had his first win in three years in charge of the Indigenous team.
Worrying for Daley and the Blues, though, would have been the form of Queensland playmaker Johnathan Thurston, who also turned in a starring role for the Indigenous team.
However, Barba was the overwhelming choice for the Preston Campbell Medal, which was chosen by the public.
The NRL's 2012 player of the year became the first player to score a hat-trick of tries in an All Star match within the opening 31 minutes of the game.
In doing so, Barba proved he would have no trouble adapting to Origin level for Queensland if he was called up in place of Billy Slater or selected in another position.
But in the modest fashion that fans became accustomed to from Barba last season, the 23-year-old praised Thurston for the role he played in his three tries.
''He had a hand in all my tries,'' Barba said. ''I love playing with him and all these guys, it is unbelievable.
''We are a tight bunch of guys and have got each other's backs.''
Asked about the injury that forced him to watch on for the last 20 minutes as the Indigenous team tried to preserve a 22-6 lead, Barba said: ''I have a bit of a soreness in the hammie. It is just a precautionary thing.''
He scored his first try in the 10th minute after centre Greg Inglis toed a Thurston grubber kick ahead then Barba dribbled the ball into the in-goal and dived onto it under the posts.
NRL All Stars fullback Jarryd Hayne hit back four minutes later after picking up a loose pass from Blake Ferguson and racing 65 metres to score but it was to be the only try of the night for the Wayne Bennett-coached team.
Barba crossed again on the last play of the first quarter after Thurston ran to the line and linked with Greg Bird, who passed to Reece Robinson before the winger turned the ball inside to the Bulldogs star.
He grabbed his third try in the 31st minute after leaping above Shaun Kenny-Dowall to latch onto a Thurston cross-field kick from out wide and give the Indigenous team an 18-6 lead.
Thurston also laid on the first of Robinson's three tries with a long cut-out pass in the 46th minute.
The Canberra winger crossed again for the Indigenous team in the 70th minute after a long pass from rookie Titans five-eighth Aidan Seizer. Robinson's third try in the 78th minute enabled him to join Barba in the record books with a hat-trick and sealed the win.
Besides the injuries to Barba and Thurston, the only controversy of an entertaining match was a shoulder charge penalty against George Rose.