St Helens to block a Barba return
BEN Barba’s dream to return to the NRL will remain exactly that — with St Helens standing firm on the former Dally M medal winner finishing his contract in the UK.
In a bid to determine the likelihood of Barba ever returning to the NRL, The Sunday Telegraph contacted St Helens management in the English Super League last Thursday.
“Let us reaffirm that Ben is contracted to the club until the end of the 2019 season,’’ a St Helens spokesperson said.
“Ben is in a winning side, he’s enjoying life, so no, we’ve not had one conversation (about Barba returning to the NRL) with Ben or his management and neither do we expect to.’’
Barba, who has scored five tries in eight matches for the ladder-leading Saints, recently went public with his desire to return to the NRL, declaring “if the NRL allows me, I’d love to come back”.
However, it seems Barba will have to wait until the 2020 NRL season before considering a return to Australia.
The Sunday Telegraph has also learnt there are no early release clauses in Barba’s contract. However, given the precedence set by Cronulla hooker James Segeyaro — who walked out on his contract with Leeds by failing to return to England after a trip home to Australia — St Helens are aware that if Barba was determined to get out early from his contract, he could.
The NRL has previously stated that the 28-year-old, who was suspended for 12 matches and subsequently released by Cronulla after testing positive to cocaine for a second time in November, 2016, would be permitted to return to the NRL so long as he can prove he’s a changed man.
The NRL would want to see proof from Barba that he’s undergone the necessary counselling and rehabilitation, to indicate that he is unlikely to reoffend.
St Helens management said Barba was proving a class act.
“He’s very happy with his lifestyle here and that shows in his football — the fans love him and we love having Ben at our club,’’ the spokesperson said.
When Barba originally spoke of his desire to one day return to the NRL, his previous club Cronulla was considered the obvious fit for the premiership winner — who scored a try in the Sharks’ 2016 grand final win over Melbourne.