The Waratahs playmaker was on the verge of missing the World Cup after suffering a series of concussions that forced him to take time out of the game earlier this year.
Barnes' career appeared to be hanging in the balance and his hopes of facing the Lions in 2013 looked longer than he would have liked but he is now being touted as a major driving forced behind Australia's aims to become the No1 ranked side in the world.
"After the year I've had it's been great to get back into the Test side and, more importantly, just to enjoy my footy again and that's been the best thing about it," said Barnes.
"And that comes with consistent footy and with the opportunity to start in games as well.
"I feel like I can play and be confident out there and I feel like I'm getting back to my best footy in the last couple of games.
"There's been a lot of hard work behind closed doors and I'm glad it's paid off now."
Barnes formed a dangerous-looking partnership with aspiring fly-half James O'Connor in London and Cardiff but the 25-year-old was quick to remind critics of the talents of absent No10 Quade Cooper.
Cooper was one of the standout players in the early part of 2011 but endured a frustrating World Cup that ended with a torn ACL that will keep him out of action until the string of next year.
But while others are writing off Cooper's chances of coming back a more consistent player, Barnes believes the Reds pivot will return better than ever.
"At the end of the day you've got to understand that Quade's an outstanding player or prospect at this level, whatever you want to call it," added Barnes.
"Last year he dominated, or earlier this year anyway. Obviously injury has cut him down, and I've been in the same place before as well.
"So he's going to have time off to get himself right and at the end of the day he should come back better than ever after the time off he's had."