In what has become a theme in the troubled life of Sharks grand-final winning fullback Ben Barba, drug use has again played a role in Barba’s downfall at a club.
This is Barba’s second positive test result for recreational drugs. He was tested just 4 days after the Sharkies first ever grand final win… Any betting man and his dog could’ve told you he was odds on for another positive result!
Barba, the 2012 Dally M champion saw has career steadily decline on and off the field in 2013. Many believed Barba’s personal relationships with Bulldogs teammates were fraying. Meanwhile, his performances on the field were also in decline. In 2013 Barba spent time in rehab to treat anger issues and gambling addictions.
Barba left the Bulldogs in 2013 due to the behavioural breaches of the club’s code of conduct policy. A mixture of injury, suspension and personal issues, led Barba to request a release from his contract and he signed with the Broncos from the 2014 season. Barba’s role at the Broncos was rather experimental, sharing time between fullback and five eighth which saw a mixed bag of results. By the end of the 2014 season the Broncos had notified Barba that he was surplus to requirements at Red Hill and on 11 November, he signed a 3 year deal with the Cronulla Sharks.
Barba’s early days with the Sharks were pivotal, as many pundits declared that Barba was simply keeping the seat warm for up and coming youngster Valentine Holmes to one day fill the Sharks’ fullback position. Surprisingly, Barba found a way to excel in the number 1 after coach Shane Flanagan returned from his suspension. Flanagan saw fit to keep Barba at the 1 and still have Holmes active throughout games with ruck runs and a dynamic style of play.
As we all know, Flanagan’s gameplan ultimately lead to the Sharks being crowned the 2016 NRL Premiers. Although for Barba, this is the end of the line. For a player who has had a history of off-field drama, the NRL was quite astute in conducting the drug test a mere 4 days after the historic win. Since the results were communicated to Barba, he has left the country to seek treatment in a rehabilitation centre in Thailand. Barba’s admission seems contrite however this recurrence is quite alarming for the mighty talented custodian. Barba states “I am accountable for myself and my actions and if I don’t address them now I will certainly ruin my career and more importantly my life and that of my family”.
Plying his trade in the Sutherland Shire may not have been the best environment for a player with such troubles. Many feel the area has somewhat of a drug culture, which would not have helped Barba stay on the straight and narrow.
Barba’s future is now up in the air. He may take the path that many troubled NRL players have taken before and seek asylum in the English Super League. Troubled NRL stars such as Tim Smith, Joel Monaghan and Cronulla’s very own Todd Carney have made the trip abroad after off-field issues have resulted in black marks on their NRL careers. Each of them found success in the confines of the Super League and maybe this is the path best taken for Ben Barba.