You’re the reigning Dally M Player of the Year. You’re on a substantial playing contract. You are on the verge of becoming Red Bull’s first ever rugby league endorsee. State of Origin selection is imminent. Wonderful family. Two beautiful daughters and the games most marketable commodity. All this at the tender age of 23. What could possibly go wrong? Surely, not even the dreaded “face of the game” curse can spoil this story? Alas, it strikes again!
It just goes to show that all is not always what it seems. Scratch a little underneath the surface and a completely different picture emerges. On the surface, it appears that Ben Barba has the world at his feet. However, following Bulldogs CEO Todd Greenburg’s announcement of the suspension of Bulldogs icon Ben Barba for behavioural issues, the real world was brought to light. It appears that Ben Barba has a problem with gambling, drinking and anger issues which may have resulted in the breakup of his family and the escalation of his anti social behaviour.
What we need to understand is elite sportsman are not just heroes or icons. They’re actually human. They suffer from the very same social issues that we mere mortals suffer from. They just happen to be in the public spotlight. Who hasn’t been in a troubled relationship which has lead to anti social behaviour? Yes, he has issues and the best thing that comes out of this is his admission of the problem. The willingness to change. That is extremely positive and encouraging. Footy can wait. Personal problems such as this can’t.
The Bulldogs club has handled this situation immaculately. I’m sure the outcome will be positive for both Ben and the club. I always say, out of tragedy comes good. I believe this story may yet have a happy ending. Hopefully, barba reunites with his partner Ainslie Currie and the family unit is restored. Maybe that’s the romantic in me? I really need to stop watching the chick flicks! Either way, he will emerge from this a better human being.
What do we take from this situation? Once again, the league needs to be proactive about identifying player related problems and setting out protocols for dealing with these situations. We have a NRL Education and Welfare committee which needs more funding and resources to support their work. What we also need is a CEO who remembers players names. As for “Benji” Barba, take your time. Get your life sorted. The league world can’t wait for the second coming…