Cherry-Evans wants to see Barba back in NRL
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles captain Daly Cherry-Evans wants Ben Barba to makes his way back into the Telstra Premiership because few players can entertain like the elusive fullback.
"I'd love to see him back because I know how much he would set alight the NRL," Cherry-Evans told NRL.com.
It is well known the pair grew up together in the central Queensland sugar town of Mackay.
What might be not so well known is that Cherry-Evans sat in the middle of the Cronulla Sharks fans at the northern end of ANZ Stadium on the night of October 2, 2016 – when a 50-year premiership drought was snapped.
"I was in the crowd. I was behind the posts with all the Sharks supporters. I was conservative in my colours, but I sat there with some of Ben's cousins and brothers," the Sea Eagles skipper said.
"It was certainly undeniable that I was there to support my mate.
"I could have selfishly sat at home and watched the game, but a grand final is not an opportunity that comes around very often. So I wanted to be there for my mate."
Barba is going great guns with St Helens in the Super League after heading overseas following the 12-match suspension imposed by the NRL for a second positive cocaine test.
Cherry-Evans doesn't support Barba's choices but he does think he should come home and continue his career in the Telstra Premiership.
"He's the type of player that you know if he's comfortable in his environment and confident in his body, he's going to be able to do some amazing things for you," Cherry-Evans said.
"I want to see him back, one as a spectator because he's so exciting to watch, and two because he's my friend.
"If I can have a good friend not living on the other side of the world that'd be great as well."
The Sharks have already stated they would welcome him back. Coach Shane Flanagan told AAP in February that while the 28-year-old had made some "poor choices", he had paid the price and would be able to start afresh at Cronulla.
Barba told NRL.com in February, after scoring tries for St Helens in the season opener against Castleford that he wanted to play in the NRL again.
Barba, the 2012 Dally M Medal winner, would likely be allowed readmission to the competition but he may have to convince NRL officials he had learned a lesson from his drugs suspension.
Cherry-Evans isn't about to be Barba's recruitment officer, but he'll be at the airport to help carry his bags if he returns.
"Regardless who he plays for, I'll support him, except on the field if he's playing against me," he said.
"Me and Ben are the same age. We grew up together. Dad [Troy Evans] was a junior coach of mine, and Ben's, for a large proportion of my junior career.
"Of course me being the son of the coach, he made Ben the captain and not me. That used to be a very funny running joke between Ben and I. He used to tease me all the time about being captain."
The tables will be turned if Barba did in fact sign with the Sea Eagles since Cherry-Evans is about to enter his second season as Manly's captain.