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Australian captain Cameron Smith has praised the Canterbury club for its handling of NRL superstar Ben Barba's personal crisis.
Smith returned home today after leading Melbourne to their World Club Challenge triumph in England and admitted it had been a "bit of shock" to learn of Barba's meltdown, having been with him in the recent All Star camp in Brisbane.
But the national skipper had no doubt the Bulldogs were doing the right thing by standing their major drawcard down from football indefinitely while he sorts out the personal issues which have derailed his life.
"Firstly it's disappointing for Ben," Smith said. "He's the current Dally M Medallist, he was the best player in our game last year and it's always sad to see elite players out of the game.
"But, more importantly, what the Bulldogs have done is a great thing for Ben.
"I think we need to look after him as a person.
"We all love to see him on a footy field and doing the wonderful things he does on there, but your life needs to be in order off the field first.
"I just hope for Ben and his family that he can get himself right as soon as possible."
Smith had not sensed Barba's problems coming to a head in camp before the All Star game where the 23-year-old was the standout player with three tries.
"I'd just seen him the week before up in Brisbane in the All Star camp and he played a great game there and it looked like he had everything in check," said Smith.
"But obviously there's always going to be things happening off-field and at the end of the day he's a human being.
"Everyone sees him on the field as a rugby league player...and everyone has issues that they have to deal with.
"Obviously Ben's going to do that for however long he needs to."
Smith said he would not attempt to contact Barba in the immediate future.
"I think he needs his space at the moment," he said.
"I've read that he's getting some professional help which is great and the best thing about it is that he approached the Bulldogs and asked for help."