Big Ben chimes in St Helens
Saints have their own version of Big Ben - maybe not in size but in stature - and head coach Justin Holbrook is urging fans to marvel athis mercurial talents while they can.
Aussie full back Ben Barba is already clocking up the points in the famous Red Vee jersey - his four touchdowns in as many matches puts him along side Mark Percival as St Helens leading try scorer to date - and at the same time is helping the club to maintain pole position in Betfred Super League XXIII.
Add to that the number of assists he has been credited with and you can see the reason why chairman Eamonn McManus took a calculated gamble
last May by signing the Cronulla Sharks star on a two and half year deal while he was still serving an NRL 12-match ban for a cocaine-related offence and didn’t know exactly where his future lay.
His breath-taking early season form has already led to his previous NRL club admitting they may have been wrong in allowing him to slip through their net and say they wouldn’t be averse to him returning to the fold one day.
Holbrook said: ‘’I think the best way to look at this is to enjoy Benny’s skill and ability while he is here. There is always speculation about players, which is the nature of any sport. All clubs want good players and would be mad if they didn’t.’’
Barba’s second double try scoring burst of the season came in Sunday’s 34-2 home victory over Salford Red Devils in front of a `fiver-figure crowd.
It wasn’t a vintage Saints’ display by any stretch of he imagination - even though they kept their try line intact for the full 80 minutes - but they had too much firepower for a Salford side who enjoyed their fair share of position without possessing a cutting edge in attack.
Holbrook said:“I thought it was a good win but it was a bit of a scratchy performance for most parts.
“I felt Benny was outstanding and so, too , was Dominque Peyroux and Luke Thompson. Those three guys stood up, while a number of others didn’t have their best games and this is something which can happen at this time of year.”
He felt the disruption in training due to snow - and not knowing whether the fixture would be on or off - didn’t help matters but it didn’t apparently hinder man of the moment Barba.
Holbrook said:”I have to give Benny credit for what he did during the week. If there’s someone who is going to complain about the weather, it would be a bloke from North Queensland!
“But he got stuck in and asked the lads what they were complaining about. He’s in a good place at the moment, is enjoying training, and it is showing on the field. It’s good to have him here.”
A view shared by many Saints fans.