NRL signs off on Barba’s NRL return
THE NRL integrity unit has given the green light for Ben Barba to return to the NRL - clearing the final hurdle for the former Dally M star to take up a $500,000 deal with the Cowboys.
The Courier-Mail can reveal Barba's current employer, English club St Helens, and the Cowboys have verbally agreed on a transfer fee for the 29-year-old to play for North Queensland in 2019.
Cowboys recruitment chiefs have had to satisfy a number of conditions to recruit Barba, including submitting paperwork to the NRL outlining the former Bronco's path to rehabilitation.
The NRL slapped Barba with a 12-match ban for a second cocaine offence in 2016, prompting the attacking whiz to quit then premiers Cronulla in a move that appeared to end his career in Australia.
But Barba will have his Cowboys contract registered after being cleared by the integrity unit, with an NRL spokesman confirming Thursday the fullback had served his ban in Super League.
"Ben Barba is free to resume playing in the NRL," the NRL spokesman said.
The Cowboys will only sign Barba to a one-year deal. His signing is expected to be announced in the next fortnight, pending a transfer fee being formalised by the Cowboys and St Helens.
Barba has scored 30 tries in 30 games for St Helens this season and Cowboys playmaker Michael Morgan said the 2012 Dally M Medallist could spark the Cowboys after their nightmare 2018 campaign.
"He could add a bit of X-factor," Morgan said.
"Ben Hampton went really well the last few weeks so he's got that in him, too.
"But Barba would add depth and also some strike which we've missed at times this year.
"I haven't had a lot to do with him, but I've met Ben in the Queensland Emerging Origin camp."
Former Broncos and Queensland skipper Darren Lockyer backed Barba's signing, saying he could be the Cowboys' most dangerous fullback since the brilliant Matt Bowen.
"It's a good signing by the Cowboys," Lockyer said.
"Barba has got his form back over there in England.
"It's a one-year deal so I don't think there's too much risk in it.
"It would be different if they signed Ben for four years, but one year is a good move for the Cowboys. If it doesn't work out, they can look at other options.
"He can bring a bit of flair.
"Matty Bowen did that for many years at the back for the Cowboys and Ben has that natural attacking game. Michael Morgan will call the shots next year and if Jake Clifford can continue his development, there is plenty of strike there."
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