Cronulla Sharks Ben Barba and Andrew Fifita at a fan day at Southern Cross Group Stadium, after they defeated the Melbourne Storm in the 2016 NRL Grand Final in Sydney.
Cronulla Sharks Ben Barba and Andrew Fifita at a fan day at Southern Cross Group Stadium, after they defeated the Melbourne Storm in the 2016 NRL Grand Final in Sydney. AAP Image/Mick Tsikas

Ben Barba ditches Cronulla Sharks for Euro rugby deal

THE Ben Barba saga is over

The former Dally M winner informed Cronulla Sharks management this morning he has accepted a $2.5m deal with French Rugby Union club Toulon.

Barba had originally hoped to continue his career in the NRL by playing for Toulon while serving a 12-match suspension for illicit drug use.

However, the NRL's refusal to register his contract until his return from Toulon meant Barba was left to make a decision on staying in Sydney unsure of a return date with the Sharks, or severing ties all together.

He chose the latter and will now spend the next 2.5 years in the south of France.

 

Ben Barba of the Sharks celebrates their win during the NRL Grand Final between the Melbourne Storm and the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. (AAP Image/Paul Miller) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Ben Barba of the Sharks celebrates their win during the NRL Grand Final between the Melbourne Storm and the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2016. (AAP Image/Paul Miller) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY PAUL MILLER

It's a sorry end for the fullback who resurrected his career with the Sharks, highlighted by a matchwinning try in the club's historic premiership win last year.

Sharks officials were unwilling to stand in his way, content to move forward with a priority to retain stars Valentine Holmes, Jack Bird and Wade Graham.

A long-term Toulon deal came as a surprise on Wednesday night.

The cashed-up French rugby outfit had been chasing Barba for a small stint in France before upping the ante to push the NRL star into an all-out code defection.

"Ben does not have a registered contract with the NRL so he is free to make a decision to play in a different code with a new club," NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said yesterday.

"But the NRL will not consider any contract for registration until he has completed his contract with other sports."

Barba underlined his frustration when he told TV reporters: "The NRL hasn't given me much ... I might never play the game again."

His manager Gavin Orr said the attacking whiz was eager to test himself in rugby - possibly as early as next week at the Global Tens.

"I dare say he will play in this Tens tournament," Orr said.

"Ben can either look back at his mistakes or he can look forward and try to be an inspiration for his kids.

"Rugby has been on Ben's radar before. At one stage he looked at being part of the Australian Sevens team for the Rio Olympics.

"Even before he joined the Sharks, he talked about challenging himself in rugby. Maybe things happen for a reason, but this is something he wants to pursue."

News Corp Australia

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