It was never going to be the representative farewell which took the spotlight this World Cup, but Danny Barakat’s swansong is a well-earned one regardless.
The Wentworthville Magpies winger made his return to the international stage in the Cedars’ 34-0 loss to the Kangaroos at the Sydney Football Stadium. Barakat previously represented his country of origin in three World Cup qualifiers in 2011 but with the Cedars unsuccessful in that campaign, was unable to appear in the 2013 tournament.
By the time 2017 rolled around – and Lebanon’s first World Cup appearance since 2000 – Barakat was 36 years of age, making him the oldest man in the Cedars’ 24-man squad and one of the senior men in the entire tournament. The long-awaited Test call-up was not lost on the veteran.
“I had a tough year at ‘Wenty,’” Barakat explains. “I thought I’d give it another shot, won a comp there and obviously made the 24-man squad for Lebanon.
“To get the opportunity to play against Australia, I’ll take that with both hands.”
It’s been a year of success for Barakat, who tasted Ron Massey Cup glory for the Magpies in September. Playing alongside Lebanon teammate Nick Kassis, each player scored a double in the decider before Barakat declared he was hanging up the boots. A call from Cedars coach Brad Fittler, however, caused a change of heart.
“That was an easy decision,” Barakat says. “The coaching staff, at the start of the year, said ‘have one more crack at it and see how you go.’ I played well at Wenty, won the comp and got rewarded with this game today.
“I was going to call it quits after the grand final but they said ‘just keep training and you might get your shot.’ Today I did.”
Despite the lopsided scoreline against the competition favourites and a battered and bruised Lebanese camp, the feeling was a positive one ahead of an imposing quarter-final battle against Tonga.
“It was tough. I was telling Freddy when I walked in (the sheds), someone tuck me into bed, I just want to sleep!” Barakat jokes. “Very sore after a good game.
“I’ll just take it how the week goes and see what Freddy makes the decision on.”
The Cedars travel to Christchurch to take on Tonga on Saturday, 18 November.