Banned Barba’s unlikely Super League lifeline
St Helens great Jon Wilkin says he fully expects the English RFL to soften their attitude towards Ben Barba and allow him back into Super League.
Wilkin admitted he felt sick to the stomach when he heard about the incident that led to Barba's sacking by North Queensland and subsequent life ban from the NRL, which the RFL said on Sunday they would respect.
However, the highly-respected former England and Great Britain international, who played with Barba last year, believes the league's previous soft approach to serial offenders and a lack representative level talent in the UK game will one day see him return.
Former Penrith winger Zak Hardaker was charged with drink-driving last year midway through a drugs ban and Gareth Hock - who Parramatta reneged on signing in 2011 due to concerns about his behaviour - are both still playing as is ex-Cowboys hooker Scott Moore, who was welcomed back with open arms by second tier club Rochdale after his release from prison following an assault on three police officers.
"There is no precedence set over here, by the RFL (about banning players)," Wilkin told the BBC's Rugby League podcast.
"Over here we are not as aggressive as the NRL with policing player's code of conduct.
"It appears to me is that you can pretty much get away with anything in Super League and you will get another club because the pool of players is so small.
"Zak Hardaker has had three or four clubs despite his indiscretions.
"Scott Moore is playing rugby (league), Gareth Hock is still playing rugby.
"There are a lot of second chances handed out and players don't realise how lucky they are.
"If Zak messes up again, would he get another club? Probably."
Wilkin saw the brilliance of Barba for Saints in 2018 as he went on to win the Man of Steel award.
He saddened by news of the player's alleged attack on his partner Ainslie Currie in a Townsville casino and said players must realise they're damaging their futures by making poor off-the-field decisions.
"Players need to get it into their heads, what you do in life may affect your ability to play rugby league," he said.
"If Ben Barba has been on his last chance ... there has to be consequences.
"But I played with Ben for a year and I can only say what I found, and when he first came over his attitude and his application were first class.
"Ben Barba is a world class rugby player and I feel for him as I guy I got close to.
"There was deep anguish in my stomach when I heard this thing that happened for him.
"Whatever your opinion about him and what happened, it is a loss to rugby league for him not to be playing."