Former Dally M Medal winner Ben Barba will never play in the NRL again, after league administrators deregistered him this morning following an investigation into an incident of alleged domestic violence.
Barba is under investigation by Townsville Police over an incident that occurred over the Australia Day weekend. CCTV footage at the Townsville casino captured the 29-year-old in an alleged physical altercation with his partner.
A subsequent investigation by the NRL has lead to today’s announcement from CEO Todd Greenberg that Barba would not be welcome back in the league at any point.
Barba, who won the league’s top individual honour while playing for Canterbury-Bankstown in 2012, has not played top tier rugby league in Australia since 2016 after being suspended indefinitely by the league after testing positive for cocaine. Cronulla, his club at the time, released him from his contract.
After two years in England with Super League club St Helens, Barba was set to make an NRL comeback this season via a one-year contract with the North Queensland Cowboys. However the club terminated that contract last Friday when news of the police investigation broke.
Speaking to media today, Greenberg stated that the league will be showing an increasingly tougher stance towards players who commit serious public offences, particularly those regarding violence against women.
It was a physical altercation and that was plenty for me to make the decision I’ve made. It was described to me in great detail. Where we see violence against women we’ll act in the strongest terms. That message, I thought, had been pretty clear. If it hadn’t been before it is today.
We’re going to get tougher and stronger on players that do the wrong thing because we cannot afford the damage it does to our game. We’ll treat every case on its merits but where there is violence against women it sits at the top of the pile.
It’s a very clear message for a lot of players in our sport that it’s a great privilege to play rugby league, to put a jersey on, to earn a significant income which they deserve as footballers. But it comes with real responsibility. And if you start to step outside the crease, you’re going to put your livelihood at risk. This is a prime example.
.@NRL CEO @Todd_Greenberg: If you're going to earn an income through rugby league, it's a great privilege. Understand the risks that come with that and if you don't want to associate the risks, find another job. We're not asking you to play.— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) February 5, 2019
MORE: https://t.co/4obfSvwx94 pic.twitter.com/D50XTIVPW8
Greenberg also asserted that Barba would not be welcome back into the NRL at any point under his watch. Although he stopped short of calling it a life ban, the deregistration effectively ends Barba’s NRL career dead in its tracks.
I can’t see a time at any time in the future when he’ll be welcomed back.
There’s no place for him. It’s probably time for Ben Barba to find a new vocation.
We’re not asking you to play, it’s a privilege.
Rugby Australia previously vowed to recognise the ban should the NRL impose it, and the English Super League has also promised to honour any ban imposed on Barba.
While the NRL maintains this tough new stance on this particular incident, many past instances of players committing domestic violence remain overlooked. Including Matthew Lodge, who is still under contract with the Brisbane Broncos and free to play in the NRL, despite a 2015 arrest at gunpoint in New York after stalking two women, committing a horrific, violent home invasion, and assaulting the occupant of the house who was unknown to him. A subsequent civil case in the US ordered him to pay US$1.6million to the victims; a sum he only paid in June of last year. That 2015 incident occurred two months after he was stood down by the Broncos over domestic violence-related incidents.
Still, one step in the right direction here today.
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Image: Getty Images / Ashley Allen