Forgive and forget?

“It’s a sh%t fight and we’re stuck in the middle.”

That was the text message I received from Sharks coach Shane Flanagan only hours before Ben Barba signed a $2.5 million contract to play for French rugby union powerhouse Toulon.

After learning the NRL wouldn’t begin his 12-week drug ban until his initial short-term spell in the rival code was finished, Barba decided enough was enough.

Not earning money since the Sharks terminated his contract, the fullback mentioned his reason to ink pen to paper for a longer deal was purely a financial decision.

Four kids to raise and a mortgage isn’t easy for anyone.  The average punter can understand this. What the average punter doesn’t understand is is how someone earning around $500,000 a year, like Barba has been, can be in financial strife.

I was once earning $130,000 a year as a tradesman with two kids and I found it bloody hard. Maybe my family lived beyond its means? Yes we did. It was our own fault. It sounds like yours does too. No one else’s fault either, is it?

Then this came of of the former Dally winners mouth to reporters outside his house once news broke of the Toulon deal.

“The NRL haven’t given me much.”

He clarified it later by saying it was the lack of information regarding his return – not the sport itself.

Ben, come In close. Listen up!

The NRL owe you NOTHING!

They have every right to take their time on when they think you are ready to return to “their” game.

Maybe they think your not rehabilitated yet and are still monitoring what was a serious situation? NRL CEO, Todd Greenberg backed this up.

“We have been working closely with the Sharks on ensuring he had access to appropriate courses and programs as part of his rehabilitation.”

The NRL were supportive of you after the positive drug test, this despite all players officially warned on the eve of last year’s finals series that testing for illicit drugs would be
ramped up on all team’s “Mad Monday” celebrations.

Maybe you missed the memo?

After Cronulla’s biggest achievement in its history, you stuffed up, not the NRL!

You received a 12-match ban for a second positive test to cocaine. Many believe that was a slap on the wrist!

Yes, you’ve owned up and sort help for yourself. We all applaud that!

What fans are getting sick of is seeing players get second chance. Second chances that most employees in many workplaces most probably wouldn’t get if caught for the same offences.

Good luck in France, hope it goes well! If not maybe it’s time to join us in the real world, Ben.

A world that at times ain’t as forgiving as one of a rugby league players’.

Michael Cain is a rugby league television journalist for TEN Eyewitness news, Sydney.

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