Josh Dugan in action for the Kangaroos.
Josh Dugan in action for the Kangaroos. RICHARD WAINWRIGHT

Reformed Kangaroos give Barba a positive vibe

RUGBY LEAGUE: More than likely, Ben Barba did not have access to Channel Nine in the early hours of this morning to watch the Four Nations final between the Kangaroos and Kiwis. And it's a shame he didn't.

Closeted away in a rehab facility in Thailand until early next month, Barba has little contact with the outside world. And after being sacked by the Sharks for his second positive drug test within 12 months, watching a game of rugby league is probably the lowest of priorities.

But in that Kangaroos team overnight were a number of players from whose book Barba could well take a page. And at the top of that page would be words such as reformation, redemption and recovery.

No doubt Ben Barba is currently in a very dark and lonely place.

With a wife and four little girls to support, the loss of his annual salary - reportedly somewhere around $650,000 - is a massive blow. Worse still, despite his indisputable talent, he has now been shown the door by three clubs, which clouds his capacity to earn anywhere near that in the future.

But watching the Four Nations final - when he eventually gets home - should prove that a door is still ajar. Those words of reformation, redemption and recovery were on display for all to see.

Once naughty boys, half a dozen of those Kangaroos are now reformed characters. Two have in fact rehabilitated to such an extent they have captained their clubs and another is on the verge of being granted that honour.

While Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson are the two most obvious examples of careers and lifestyles back on track, it is easy to forget that Johnathan Thurston has a tarnished record. Twice the Cowboys skipper has been arrested for being drunk in public and making a goose of himself.

But he learned from his mistakes and is now not just one of the best players in the game, but a genuine role model and a shining beacon.

Broncos duo Darius Boyd and Sam Thaiday are other examples of reformed characters. They were involved in a particularly unsavoury incident in a Brisbane nightclub back in 2009 that brought shame on them, their club and their families.

And there was Boyd's insolent TV interview a year later, which made him one of the game's most churlish players. But he has reformed to the point where he is entrenched as the Queensland and Kangaroos fullback, and will almost certainly be named Broncos captain for next season.

Unquestionably though, Dugan and Ferguson should be the lure for Barba.

Following a string of indiscretions at Canberra they were finally sacked after the infamous Bacardi Breezers incident in 2013. Instead of attending a Raiders recovery session, they adjourned to the roof of Ferguson's home and tweeted photos of themselves in a state of disrepair.

Yet there they were this morning, strutting their stuff on the famous Anfield turf in Liverpool wearing the coveted green and gold of their country. No doubt they were proud, as were their respective clubs, their families and their mentors.

To his credit, Barba has apologised for his behaviour and has indicated to mates that he does seek redemption. And he has made all the right noises about getting back to rugby league and doing what he does best.

If he has the motivation, he certainly has the role models.


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