St Helens have completed the signing of Australian superstar Ben Barba on a two-and-a-half-year deal.
Barba, a former Dally M winner in 2012, has signed in a deal the club has described as taking “advantage of the new additional marquee exemption provision to the salary cap rules.”
Saints are understood to have fended off interest from Warrington Wolves to land the 27-year-old, who played a key role in Cronulla’s NRL title-winning season last year.
He was subsequently banned by the NRL for 12 matches after a positive cocaine test, a suspension that Saints have confirmed will initially still apply. However, Saints have confirmed they will “be seeking further and final clarification of this position.”
New Saints head coach Justin Holbrook stated: “I’ve known Ben for some time and am confident that he will add a new dimension to the Saints and is a great capture for Super League. He is a multi-talented and world-class rugby league player.
“Everyone in the team will benefit from him joining us and are really looking forward to his arrival. The fans also have a lot to look forward to.
“Given Ben’s abilities and reputation, his signing was extremely competitive and the Club have done exceptionally well to secure him.
“It is not often that players of his calibre become available and the Club has pulled out all the stops to fight off competition from both rugby codes around the world.
“I am also grateful for their support to me for my first signing as the new Head Coach.”
Barba said: “I feel very privileged to be joining such a historic rugby league club as St.Helens. I was able to meet up with some of the players and key people from the Club at the Magic Weekend and know they are a great set of people. The fans also showed me just how passionate they are.
“I wanted to make an early decision so that I can get my family settled in England and kids enrolled at school. I have certainly enjoyed my time in France at Toulon, but I am a rugby league player and St.Helens, especially with Justin Holbrook as head coach, have made me very comfortable with the decision.
“I look forward to pulling the Saints’ jersey on and playing besides my new teammates as soon as possible.”
Barba’s manager, Chris Orr from PSM, said: “This is the perfect fit for Ben to reconnect to his rugby league roots. He has had a long affiliation with Justin Holbrook the new St Helens coach from their days at the Bulldogs.
“The Magic Weekend gave Ben the opportunity to experience the passionate fans of Super League and he loved it and wanted to be part of it immediately.”