RUGBY LEAGUE: "A poor choice on a poor day.”
Cronulla CEO Lyall Gorman has suggested Ben Barba may have gotten carried away in the club's premiership celebrations, after the Sharks fullback tested positive for cocaine use four days after their grand final victory.
The 27-year-old has been released from his contract with the club and has entered a rehabilitation clinic in Thailand.
Gorman told media Barba may have been swept up in the occasion and made a poor decision, but would be supported by the club.
"Whether he's got carried away with the celebrations ... I don't know the exact circumstances of when this occurred, but it's obviously a poor choice,” he said.
"Hopefully in time we can help Ben get back in the game he loves, but that is not his priority at the moment.”
It was Barba's second positive drugs sample, after he failed a test last year.
He has been banned for 12 games by the NRL, should he return to the competition in the future.
In a statement released by the Sharks, Barba said he was hopeful of one day returning to the club.
"I know and accept I need to take some time away from the game to deal with some personal issues,” he said. "I am accountable for myself and my actions and if I don't address them now 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.”
"I hope to return to the game at some stage and am very grateful for the support of the Cronulla Sharks and I hope that one day I can again play beside this terrific bunch of guys. I have made some tremendous friendships both within the playing ranks and throughout the coaching and administration teams. This has made it all the more difficult to make this decision but it's something I just had to do.”
Gorman admitted he was saddened by Barba's departure and paid tribute to the contribution he had made to the club.
"This is an incredibly difficult situation for Ben, his family and our club, and all involved with it,” Gorman said. "Ben has made a remarkable contribution to our club and community since joining it. It is, however, something we believe and accept is absolutely necessary in order to assist Ben to work through the challenges at hand.
"While Ben will be a major loss to our football club, the far greater priority is for him to focus on his long-term future away from football and we will continue to support Ben throughout that process in any way we can.”
Gorman said no other players from the club had failed a drugs test.
Barba, who played 97 games for the Bulldogs after debuting in 2008, joined the Sharks at the start of last season following an ill-fated spell with the Broncos in 2014.
He won the Dally M Medal in 2012 but was stood down by the Bulldogs before the start of the 2013 season after struggling with off-field issues reportedly involving alcohol, gambling and a relationship breakdown. He returned in round four that year but was released from the last two years of his contract with Canterbury at the end of that season.
With Barba at fullback, the Sharks last month broke a 49-year wait for their first premiership by beating the Melbourne Storm 14-12.
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