St Helens have confirmed that Ben Barba will join North Queensland Cowboys at the end of the season.
The 29-year-old, who has played 32 games for the club, is set to return to the NRL in 2019 with the Cowboys.
Saints chairman Eamonn McManus is disappointed that Barba will not see out the final year of his contract but admitted that they have made a signing from the NRL for next season.
He said: “It’s sad to see Benny depart to North Queensland Cowboys in the NRL next season.
“We have respected his wishes and have obtained an acceptable transfer fee. We will also be announcing a new signing from the NRL shortly.
“Benny made a hugely positive impact upon his arrival at St Helens and both the club and the Super League competition have each benefitted accordingly. It’s now his intention to finish the season as he started it.
“We wish him and his family every luck for the future.”
Saints coach Justin Holbrook said he has enjoyed working with Barba, who has scored 29 tries for the club.
He said: “Benny has been fantastic for us this season.
“From round one to 16 he was brilliant, but he picked up some niggling injuries which has hampered him over the last 10 or so weeks. He is now over those and wants to finish the year strong.
“We would have loved to have kept Ben for next season but he wants to return home and to the NRL. It is hard to stop that from happening but it hasn’t affected himself or the team with this decision.
“I would like to personally thank Ben for his rugby league brain and the skills he has shown this season. I know he has really enjoyed his season at St Helens; you don’t play as good as he has if you haven’t been enjoying playing in this team and at this club. I wish him all the best for his future. We now look forward to the rest of the season.”
Barba played 168 games in the NRL for Canterbury Bulldogs, Brisbane Broncos and Cronulla Sharks between 2008 and 2016.
He will return to the State he grew up in at the end of the season but Barba wants to win the Grand Final with Saints first.
Barba said: “Playing in England and St Helens in particular has been a wonderful experience for myself and my family.
“I cannot thank the club, fans and most importantly Chairman Eamonn McManus, CEO Mike Rush, Coach Justin Holbrook, my team-mates and their families on how they welcomed me and my family into the club.
“They supported me when I needed it most and I am appreciative of the understanding and compassion in allowing me to return home.
“I want to finish the season off playing my best football for the club and fans and hopefully capping off a successful season.”