Ben Barba of the Bulldogs watches gets ready to watch the
NRL trial match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and the
Newtown Jets at Belmore Sports Ground in Sydney earlier
this month. Photo Getty
It wasn't the straw that broke the camel's back, but it
was the final indicator that Ben Barba's head space wasn't
prepared for an NRL season.
Taking part in his one and only trial match for the Bulldogs
in Goulburn last Saturday night, Barba told one of the team's
trainers he wanted to come off because he wasn't really
interested in playing.
It was a poignant moment.
For all his off-field issues, the rugby league field had
always been a place of solace for Barba, a chance for him to
escape the troubles of his private life.
Never was this more evident that with his stunning hat-trick
in the All Stars match earlier this month, a performance
which many believed was a portent to an imminent State of
Origin call-up for Queensland.
That dream now appears in tatters, with Barba to seek help
for a multitude of behavioural issues stemming from the
breakdown in his relationship with Ainslie Currie, the mother
of his two children.
He was in tears on Sunday as he met with Bulldogs coach Des
Hasler and chief executive Todd Greenberg, who had been aware
of Barba's troubles for some time.
"It became quite serious to me over this weekend," Greenberg
"We've been talking to him a lot ... over the last 24-48
hours it became significant enough for me to take the action.
"(It was) not so much an incident, just a manifestation of a
lot of issues that have been in his life over a period of
"This is not one issue - this is a range of different issues
that stem from the breakdown in a family and a personal
The Bulldogs have invested many hours in dealing with Barba's
emotional shortcomings over the years.
A junior star, Barba once stunned Bulldogs officials during
an under-20s match when he was so upset with a decision he
walked off the field midway through a competition game.
There have been any number of rumours of incidents with
teammates, the latest being an allegation by the Nine Network
of an altercation with fellow squad member Tim Browne at
training last week.
Greenberg said Barba wanted none of the attention his 2012
heroics delivered, but whether he liked it or not, he was now
one of the NRL's poster boys.
Greenberg denied any of Barba's actions had warranted the
attention of police, and related to breaches of club policy.
Rather, this had all the hallmarks of a pre-emptive strike.
"Some (breaches) are small, some are things that you do day
to day in the club's operations and others you take a dimmer
view of," Greenberg said.
"Certainly over the last week or so I've seen some signs that
worry me and we need to make sure we got on the front foot
with him to ensure we got him some help now before this came
to something that was more drastic.
"We talked a lot yesterday about good decision making.
"Young footballers get to points of their careers where they
make poor decisions - Ben's made a number of poor decisions
in recent times and he needs to start making good decisions
to get back on the football field.
"That's been explained to him in no uncertain terms."