Hands-off Ben Barba! That’s the no-nonsense message from St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus after the Australian’s former NRL club, Cronulla Sharks, had hinted over the weekend that they would like him back on board sooner rather than later.
Barba has taken Super League by storm after arriving in the UK a year ago following an ill-fated stint in French rugby union and a 12-match NRL ban for a cocaine-related offence and currently is the leading try scorer in the competition.
We’ve had some fantastic Australians who’ve served this club with great distinction such as Jamie Lyon and Mal Meninga, Ben is right up there with themEamonn McManus
McManus insists that the Queenslander is thriving being out of the Sydney Rugby League goldfish bowl and is angry at what he believes are efforts to unsettle his player.
In an online statement, McManus said: “I keep reading these reports than Ben won’t be here next year and to be quite honest, it is a little bit annoying.
“He is midway through a two-and-a-half-year contract and he and his family have settled in the area very well and really embraced the town, the people and the club.
“Whenever you sign a player from the NRL there is a risk involved, so Ben’s was no different to any other signing we’ve made over the years.
“But he is a lovely lad, very quiet, very humble and is very much a family man who keeps himself to himself.
“The fans love him and he has taken them into his hearts. This is a very working class town and the people are very down to earth and he enjoys that environment.”
McManus believes the less defensive-minded approach of Super League is well suited to Barba who, he says, has given no indication of wanting to leave.
“Obviously, he will return home at some stage, but he’s under contract for next season and has a fantastic relationship with our coach, Justin Holbrook,” he said.
“He’s got a lovely family and the children are settled in at school.
“We’ve had some fantastic Australians who’ve served this club with great distinction such as Jamie Lyon and Mal Meninga, Ben is right up there with them.”
Holbrook said: “It could frustrate me that other clubs are talking about him but it doesn’t worry me because it means he is playing well for us. If he hadn’t, then no one would be interested in him.”
The head coach added: “There is speculation in every sport because big clubs always want the best, like the time Cristiano Ronaldo left Manchester United for Real Madrid.’’