Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan has revealed that the club's former premiership fullback Ben Barba was under consideration as a possible replacement for Toronto Wolfpack-bound centre Ricky Leutele next season.
Barba is starring for St Helens in England's Super League but has indicated he would be keen to return to the NRL and Flanagan and Sharks players left no doubt he would be welcome back at the club he helped to the historic 2016 grand final triumph.
With Leutele having signed with the Wolfpack and Jesse Ramien joining Newcastle next season, Flanagan flagged the possibility of Josh Dugan moving from fullback to the centres to accommodate Barba, with Valentine Holmes remaining on the wing.
"Benny is a premiership winning player for this club, he has got a young family and if he wanted to come back to Australia we would look at it," Flanagan said after Sunday’s 22-16 defeat of Canterbury at Southern Cross Group Stadium.
"We've lost Ricky Leutele to the Toronto Wolfpack next season and Jesse is off to Newcastle. Duges is quite happy to play in the centres. At the moment, he is playing fullback so we will weigh all those things up in due time."
Match highlights: Sharks v Bulldogs - Round 11, 2018
Barba joined the Sharks in 2015 after a disappointing stint with Brisbane and recaptured the form which earned him the 2012 Dally M Medal at Canterbury to spearhead the club to its first premiership win, in 2016.
However, he parted company with Cronulla after testing positive for cocaine during grand final celebrations and switched codes to play rugby union for Toulon before joining St Helens last year.
"We love Benny," Flanagan said. "He made a bad decision [but] he is a premiership winning player here and it is our only premiership so we treat all those players who were at the club in 2016, whether they played in the grand final or not, in high regard."
Sharks prop Andrew Fifita said Barba would be welcomed back by his former team-mates.
"I love Benny, he is a big part of why we won in 2016 and I guess you could say why we were history makers," Fifita said. "He is a game breaker and he is killing it in England. I still stay in contact with him and I would love to see him back here."