BEN Barba has opened up about his departure from St Helens and the incident a few months later that ended his professional rugby league career.

The high-profile Australian full-back won the Steve Prescott Man of Steel Award as Super League’s best player at the end of his only full campaign in the red vee and although Saints twice fell at the final hurdle in 2018 he described his time with the club as ‘special’.

But Barba, who had to complete a 12-game drugs ban imposed by the NRL in 2016 upon first arriving at the Totally Wicked Stadium, left with a year remaining on his contract to return to the NRL with North Queensland Cowboys.

Around three months later his career was over.

He was sacked by the North Queensland Cowboys and banned from the NRL and Super League in February 2019 after he was involved in a physical altercation with his partner Ainslie Currie on Australia Day.

“My time at St Helens was pretty special for me,” said Barba during a Facebook Live video session from his home in Mackay, Queensland.

“I didn’t know what to expect when I got over there but I never felt so much love from a club and from the people in a town – not just myself but my family.

“I’m sort of sad when I think back that I probably should never have left because at the time I was enjoying my life over there, my footy was going well and we had a great year in 2018 although we fell short in both the semis.

“The only reason why I decided to come back to Australia was I’d lost my grandmother on my mum’s side during the year.

“St Helens offered for me to come back home but I knew if I’d left I would probably never have returned.

“I ended up missing her funeral and I guess that was the breaking point for me to come back home.

“I guess I could probably never go through the pain of having to deal with that again.

“You don’t want to lose your family members, and not being able to mourn with my family was tough for me.

“I still love St Helens. Hopefully one day I’ll get back over there again and watch a game and see the club and the people because they’re one of the best fan bases over there and I’m very privileged to have been able to wear that red vee and play a part in their journey.

“It was an unbelievable experience and one of the best experiences I’ve had.”

But as he was gearing up for his return to the NRL, things went wrong during an Australia Day party on February 1, 2019.

“I’ve never really got to talk about it and I don't want to go into it too much, but stuff went on with my partner and I.

“I did things that weren't right, stuff that I’m not very proud of.

“It cost me my career and it’s nobody’s fault but mine.

“I was looking forward to the start of the season and I’d worked so hard to try to be ready and help provide for the side.

“Again, it was a simple Australia Day party where things went wrong.

“I lost my head, made a mistake that eventually cost me everything.”

Barba, 30, won a Premiership with Cronulla Sharks in 2016 and the Dally M Medal as the competition’s player of the year in 2012 while with Canterbury Bulldogs.

Barba is one of only two players to have won both the Man of Steel Award and Dally M Medal, the other being Gavin Miller.