Ben Barba: St Helens say appealing 12-match ban taking 'inordinately long' time

Ben Barba
Barba helped Cronulla to their first NRL Grand Final last year then tested positive for cocaine just days later

St Helens' appeal against Ben Barba's 12-match suspension relating to an NRL drugs ban has been deferred for no "good or valid reason", according to club chairman Eamonn McManus.

The independent judge in the case adjourned for a week to review material provided by the Rugby Football League.

The hearing is set for Wednesday, 28 June and comes five weeks after Barba signed for the Super League club.

"The procedural process is proving to be inordinately long," said McManus.

"We were already bemused by the protracted period prior to being granted a tribunal hearing date.

"That has now been deferred further at the unilateral request of the RFL and without, in our opinion, good or valid reason."

The man and the ban

Barba, who tested positive for cocaine just days after helping Cronulla win the NRL Grand Final last year, was a controversial signing on 24 May on a deal until 2019, after a short stint playing rugby union in France.

His cross-code move to France proved a contentious one for the 27-year-old - who was the NRL's player of the year in 2012 - as he escaped being sanctioned because the ban only applied to rugby league.

On Barba's return to rugby league with Saints, the RFL - who govern the Super League - sought clarity from the NRL about whether the ban was applicable outside the southern hemisphere competition.

The issue which the RFL has faced from the very beginning is not just about upholding an NRL-imposed suspension, but establishing that there is collaboration between the two competitions and that bans served in rugby league are recognised internationally.

In a statement on St Helens' website, McManus said: "We merely legitimately seek to appeal the discretionary decision of the RFL to adopt his 12-match suspension from the NRL.

"We consider that we have an extremely strong case."

If the ban was to stand, Barba will have served six matches by the time the appeal is heard and he will not be eligible to play until the fourth match of the Super 8s, which is likely to be in August.

The delay explained

The RFL originally requested the hearing be put back to allow Saints and the judge - who will head a three-member panel - time to review papers, which relate to cross-competition bans and drug suspension policies.

However, St Helens wanted a speedy conclusion and the RFL were willing to have the case heard as originally planned this week, only for the judge to then deny that request to allow more time to review material from both sides before hearing the case.

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