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Ben Barba released from contract following cocaine scandal

Ben Barba
FORMER Dally M Medal winner Ben Barba has been released from his contract with the Cronulla Sharks after he returned a positive sample to cocaine following his team’s grand final victory in October.

The 27-year-old was tested four days after the Sharks’ dominant victory over the Melbourne Storm and he has reportedly departed to Thailand where he will be attending a rehabilitation centre.

It is Barba’s second breach of the NRL’s illicit substance policy, with the previous breach said to have occurred outside of the NRL competition some time within the past 12 months.

Subsequently, the NRL have also slapped him with a 12-week ban, with the suspension to be served if he returns to the game in the future.

Cronulla chief executive Lyall Gorman said the club’s priority was ensuring the welfare of both Barba and his family.

“He has massive issues to confront on a personal basis, he’s put his hand up and acknowledged those,” Gorman explained.

“He feels he needs to get out of the environment…to fully focus on himself.

“[Barba] is currently offshore with our head of welfare, in a centre undergoing an intensive program that…will hopefully help him start to address his personal issues that are so relevant to him and his ongoing future.

“[I am] not sure how long that program will take, at all, but we will continue as a club to fully support him in every way that we can.”

Gorman also commented on his disappointment at a personal level, having built a strong relationship with the star fullback.

“There’s no-one more disappointed than me.

“I’ve spent a lot of time with Benny, I’ve become very close to him and to say that I’m personally distressed by this outcome would be an understatement.

“Whether he’s got carried away with the celebrations, [I] don’t know the exact circumstances of when this occurred.”

It is not the first time the 2012 Dally M Player of the Year has faced controversy off-field. Three years ago, Barba was stood down by the Canterbury Bulldogs and spent time in rehab to deal with alcohol, gambling and personal issues.

Barba then headed to Brisbane where he was dumped by the Broncos in 2014 before enduring a tough first year at the Sharks in 2015.

In a statement released by the Cronulla Sharks, Barba conceded to struggling with issues, despite having been playing in a rich vein of form throughout the season.

“I know and accept I need to take some time away from the game to deal with some personal issues,” Barba said.

“I am accountable for myself and my actions and if I don’t address them know I will certainly ruin my career and more importantly my life and that of my family.

“As footballers we often find it hard to speak up about having problems, but this decision has lifted so much pressure off myself that I cannot start to explain just how much better I feel by taking this action.”

Rising star Valentine Holmes now looms as the obvious choice to fill the No.1 jersey at the Sharks next season.

Despite the pre-season controversy, the boys in black, white and blue remain steady on the second line of betting to take out back-to-back premierships in 2017.

Online bookmaker Sportsbet has Cronulla at $9, with the Broncos, Storm and North Queensland Cowboys all sharing favouritism at $8 each.

2017 NRL Premiership

Brisbane Broncos $8
Melbourne Storm $8
North Queensland Cowboys $8
Cronulla Sharks $9 with Sportsbet
Canberra Raiders $9
Penrith Panthers $9
Sydney Roosters $13
New Zealand Warriors $13
South Sydney Rabbitohs $15
Manly Sea Eagles $17
Gold Coast Titans $17
Parramatta Eels $17
Canterbury Bulldogs $17
Wests Tigers $29
St George Illawarra Dragons $81
Newcastle Knights $201

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