St Helens’ star signing Ben Barba has arrived in the country, but is unaware of the situation regarding his twelve-week suspension which the club have subsequently appealed.
The suspension was imposed by the NRL in the close season after last season’s Grand Final, when Barba, who was then a player with the Premiership winning Cronulla Sharks, tested positive for cocaine.
Despite the suspension looming, Barba has insisted he will be fully focused on the club’s training schedule and is optimistic of his future with the club.
“Obviously I’ve got a bit of a suspension at the minute and I’m not sure what’s going on but all I can do is work hard on the training ground,” he told the club’s official TV channel in an interview with Paul Sculthorpe.
“I’m enjoying being over here finally and I’m looking forward to what’s ahead. There’s a nice bunch of guys here and they were very welcoming and it’s a very friendly place. It’ll make it a lot easier for me over the coming weeks.”
Having previously worked under Justin Holbrook while at Canterbury Bulldogs, and was first spotted on these shores at Magic Weekend.
Speculation soon circulated that he was being courted by St Helens and Warrington Wolves, and Barba explained that it was the conversations he had with the raft of St Helens legends on the coaching set-up that swayed his decision.
“That played a bit of a role in me coming here but after the meeting I had with Mike (Rush) and some of the other guys like you (Paul Sculthorpe), Sean (Long) and Paul (Wellens) it looked like a club who looked after their players,” added the 28-year-old.
“I had either here or Warrington to go to but it had a big effect after meeting Mike.”
One household name at St Helens who Barba is more than familiar with is former Canterbury Bulldogs teammate James Graham, who was complimentary of the club. Again affecting his decision, the former Dally M medal winner joked that he could play a part in Graham’s return to Saints in the future.
“I didn’t actually speak to him before I came but when we were at the Doggies we kind of joked that when he returned to England I’d come over and play at St Helens,” quipped Barba.
“Obviously I’ve beaten him to the punch and I’m here first, so hopefully I can lure him here to finish off his career. He always spoke really well of the club and that definitely played a bit of a factor in me coming here too.”