The North Queensland Toyota Cowboys have signed Dally M winning fullback Ben Barba to a one-year deal for the 2019 season.
Barba joins the club on the back of a stellar season for St Helens in the UK Super League where he currently leads all players with 26 tries and ranks third with 24 try assists.
Prior to departing for England, Barba played 168 NRL games across nine seasons, scoring 99 tries. He debuted for the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs in 2008 and won the Dally M Medal in 2012.
Following a brief one-season stint with the Brisbane Broncos in 2014, Barba joined the Cronulla Sharks in 2015 and was a key member of the club's premiership-winning outfit in 2016.
A product of Mackay in North Queensland, Barba was originally signed with St Helens for next season, but the club agreed to release the fullback from the final year of his contract to allow him to return home.
Cowboys Director of Football Peter Parr said the club was excited to welcome Barba for the 2019 season.
"Ben's form this year for St Helens has been of the highest standard. He's been the best fullback if not the best player in the English Super League," Parr said.
"He is from Mackay and has always had a desire to play for the Cowboys, but for whatever reasons the stars never aligned until now.
"Ben has been looking to return to the NRL and with an opening at the fullback position at our club it presented the opportunity for him to do that."
Head coach Paul Green believes Barba will be a great fit for the Cowboys in 2019.
"Ben is an extremely gifted player and I believe he can be a huge asset for our side next season," Green said.
"He has been in fantastic form for St Helens and he still has a great deal to offer at NRL level.
"Ben hails from North Queensland and he is excited to be able to return home and represent the region."
St Helens CEO Mike Rush gave a glowing endorsement of Barba's contribution to the club since he joined the English rugby league powerhouse in June 2017.
"Ben instantly became a popular and valued member of the squad, who is loved by his peers and the coaching staff," Rush said.
"He has been excellent off the field with our sponsors and has engaged with a multitude of community projects including running an impromptu session with our junior members and visiting local schools.
"He has also been an integral part of the establishment of our women's team, taking time to train with them and pass on his knowledge."