St Helens have taken advantage of the new additional marquee exemption provision to the salary cap rules by signing Australian sensation Ben Barba on a two-and-a-half year deal.
The 27-year-old won the NRL Dally M award in 2012, a Grand Final with Cronulla Sharks in 2016 and this year has been with French Rugby Union side Toulon.
“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,” said Saints head coach Justin Holbrook.
“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 is currently the subject of a 12-match ban in the NRL.
The initial stance of the RFL is that this also applies to Super League.
However, St Helens will be seeking further and final clarification of this position.
Barba played 168 games, scoring 99 tries, in the NRL.
He started his career at the North Devils, Mackay, in Queensland before signing with the Canterbury Bulldogs in 2007.
He made his representative debut for the Indigenous All Stars in the 2011 All Stars Match – his first of five appearances – and moved to Brisbane on 2014, scoring eight tries in 25 games
Barba then joined Cronulla and 2016 won the Grand Final after an outstanding season.
His 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.”