League: Barba's off-field woes take their toll

Ben Barba of the Bulldogs watches gets ready to watch the NRL trial match between the Canterbury...
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 said.

"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 time.

"This is not one issue - this is a range of different issues that stem from the breakdown in a family and a personal relationship."

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."

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