Sailor backs Barba to seize Cowboys chance
WENDELL Sailor has backed Ben Barba to make the most of his NRL comeback with the Cowboys, adamant he has earned his second chance.
Barba was given a ten-match ban after guiding Cronulla to the 2016 premiership for testing positive to cocaine, and has spent the past two years in French rugby and the English Super League.
Barba has four children and is spending time with family in Mackay before he starts his Cowboys tenure when the second week of pre-season begins on November 12.
He told The Sunday Mail he has learned his lesson and "won't be touching the stuff" as the 2012 Dally M winner looks to reproduce the form that won him the Super League's Man of Steel award with St Helens this year.
Dual international Sailor can relate to Barba's situation after he was banned for two years when playing rugby union for cocaine use in 2006, but returned to the NRL with St George Illawarra aged 33 in 2008 and 2009.
"When I was out of the game I was watching my mates, whether it was Darren Lockyer or Lote Tuqiri, and understand when that opportunity gets taken away from you, you take it for granted," Sailor said.
"When I came back I was happy to play reserve grade for the Burleigh Bears or Shellharbour, whatever it took to get back into first grade.
"Once you get back there you realise it's a privilege and honour to play at that level.
"At the end of the day he (Barba) has paid his price. The good thing about rugby league is we're happy to give second chances and Benny has earned his second chance.
"He won't let the Cowboys fans down, and he won't let the NRL down. He knows he's had a couple of hiccups and the last one probably made him realise."
Sailor said the dynamic fullback can provide the x-factor the Cowboys need to bounce from a disappointing 2018.
The 29-year-old has been signed for just one season as the Cowboys look to add Sharks superstar and Townsville product Valentine Holmes to their books from 2020.
It should ensure Barba is heavily motivated not only to prove his worth in Townsville, but increase his market value if he plays elsewhere after next year.
"I'm excited to see him back in the NRL. Our game is better for having people like him in it when he's on fire, and the kids love him," Sailor said.
"I went to rugby and had my time out of the game and when I came back, it was a breath of fresh air.
"With Ben I think he needs that incentive. I know they want to try and get Val back there, and why wouldn't you, but if it doesn't come up Ben Barba isn't a bad back-up."
Barba told The Sunday Mail he's in a good frame of mind, on and off the field, to show he still has what it takes to dominate the NRL.
"I won't be touching the stuff. Definitely not," Barba said.
"It crosses my mind just about every day - one more mishap and my NRL career will be over, just like that.
"The first and second time around (when he tested positive to recreational drugs), in the back of your head you think, 'Well I know I have another chance or two'.
"It's a ridiculous way to think but that's the honest truth.
"I knew in the back of my head if I had an offence, I wouldn't get sacked. But now I know this is my last chance to make better choices than I have in the past."