SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 06: Ben Barba of the Sharks watches on during the round 13 NRL match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the Cronulla Sharks at ANZ Stadium on June 6, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Former Canterbury, Brisbane and Cronulla fullback Ben Barba is nearing a return to rugby league following discussions with the new North American competition.

The new 14-team, two conference league was launched last week, with the season set to get underway on June 19 this year.

The North American Rugby League are hoping to land one marquee signing at each club, with 12 residing in the United States and another two based in Canada – who won’t compete in the upcoming season due to COVID-19 restrictions.

According to The Daily TelegraphBarba could be the key acquisition for New York given his decorated playing career.

While the Dally M medallist continues to seek a return to rugby league following past indiscretions, the NARL are aware of Barba’s troubled history and are cautious of New York’s approach.

New York have formally put forward a request to sign Barba for the 2021 season, with the NARL board weighing up implications of having the Cronulla premiership player represent their branding.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the league is highly tempted to approve New York’s request, which could include certain clauses that Barba would need to abide by.

After being banned by the NRL following a positive test for cocaine, Cronulla released Barba in 2016 before a move to French rugby outfit Toulon.

The 31-year-old returned down under with North Queensland in 2019, but was cut from the club before playing a game with the Cowboys after failing to follow the terms of his contract.

Barba last featured in rugby league with Super League side St Helens in 2018, where he won the Man of Steel Award as the competition’s best player.