One of rugby league’s most talked about stories of recent weeks has now been confirmed as St Helens this morning announced that star full back Ben Barba will be leaving the club at the end of this season.
The 29-year-old is set to join North Queensland Cowboys in the NRL who, following the retirement of legendary half back Johnathan Thurston, are embarking on a new era themselves. Barba, a former Dally M Medal and NRL Grand Final winner during his time with Cronulla, is currently the top try scorer in the Betfred Super League and has been held as a long time favourite to win the coveted Man of Steel award.
Barba initially joined Saints shortly after Justin Holbrook arrived as the club’s head coach in 2017 and, after missing a dozen matches due to a drugs ban carried over from his NRL days with Cronulla, was a key figure as the ‘red vee’ fell agonisingly short of a surprise Super League Grand Final position, losing out to a golden point drop goal at the hands of Luke Gale and Castleford Tigers.
He has been a star of this Super League season and has been pivotal in Saints’ superb campaign, one which has seen them lead the table since the start of the season. While his form dipped in recent weeks, he seemed to be back to his best in his team’s 34-14 win at Warrington, the team they will face in the Super League semi-finals next month.
Holbrook’s Saints have already moved to bring in a replacement for Barba in the shape of Kevin Naiqama of Wests Tigers who will slot into the backline, possibly at full-back or centre. Another option for the soon-to-be-vacant full back spot would be England international Jonny Lomax who, prior to Barba’s arrival at the club, had been playing in the number one position.