Ben Barba of the Sharks celebrates their win in the NRL grand final.
Ben Barba of the Sharks celebrates their win in the NRL grand final. PAUL MILLER

Disgraced Barba apologises to Sharks over failed drug test

RUGBY LEAGUE: Valentine Holmes has backed Ben Barba to return to rugby league "bigger, stronger and better” after the disgraced star apologised to he and his former Cronulla teammates over the cocaine use that led to his dumping by the NRL premier.

Holmes, currently in England preparing for Australia's Four Nations final against New Zealand this weekend, said Cronulla players recently received a WhatsApp message from Barba.

"He said he is sorry. It's unfortunate what's happened,” Holmes told News Corp.

Barba was released by the Sharks this month to seek treatment in Thailand for a range of issues after his second positive test to cocaine in less than two years.

He failed the drug test four days after Cronulla's grand final victory over the Melbourne Storm last month.

Should he return to the NRL, Barba will serve a mandatory 12-match ban.

"We've all been supporting him. He is doing pretty well,” Holmes said.

"All the boys in Sydney have gone to see him before he left.

"He is someone I looked up to and would like to aspire to play like. It was good having him at the club and to learn from him.”

Winger Holmes is set to benefit from Barba's absence with first crack at the vacant Sharks fullback spot next season.

"It's unfortunate what's happened with Ben but I'm happy to step up and take that role if I get the opportunity,” Holmes said.

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