The NRL's 2012 player of the year Ben Barba won't play in the Bulldogs opening round clash against North Queensland and his long term future is uncertain after being stood down over behavioural issues relating to a break-up with his long time partner.
Canterbury chief executive Todd Greenberg would not put a time frame on when Barba was expected to resume playing, telling a press conference: ''It could be six weeks, it could be six months''.
Fairfax Media understand the Bulldogs are helping Barba to overcome gambling and alcohol issues.
Greenberg refused to speculate on the exact nature of the problems but he said Barba needed to deal with them or the club would consider sterner action.
''By terminating his contract it doesn't help him,'' Greenberg said. ''What we are trying to do is put support services around him and people around him to help him individually off the field.
''That is the sort of club we are, we help ours when they need it, but he needs to take a big step up here and if he doesn't take that step up he won't play.
''If he helps himself he will be a Bulldogs player for a long time but he needs to help himself.''
Barba's absence will be a big loss for Canterbury but Greenberg said his long term welfare was more important.
''Ben Barba is ill and he needs help,'' Greenberg said. ''We thought we had a duty of care.
''He won't be playing when we open the season. We have stood down the Dally M player of the year, the pin-up boy of the game.
''Ben's at a point where I think football is the furthest thing from his mind.
The National Rugby League supported the Bulldogs' actions on Monday.
"The club [Bulldogs] has kept the NRL fully briefed on the matter and it is clear that this is a case of everyone wanting to put Ben's interests first," NRL CEO Dave Smith, said on Monday.
"This appears to be a challenging set of circumstances for a young man in the public spotlight and it is a time for us all to give him and the club some room to find the best way forward.
Barba said in a statement released by the Bulldogs: "Today is a very difficult day for me as I feel I've let my family, children, club and supporters down. My issues relate to seeking help for personal issues that I face day to day.
"I'm incredibly sad to be stepping aside as I've been so blessed with what's happened to me over the past few years, but I feel as though I would be wearing a mask if I didn't confront the matters I've been dealing with until now.
"I feel it is best to deal with these problems front on and I believe that by doing so this will make me a better person and player in the future.
"This will be a step by step process for me and whilst I hope to return to football soon, I hope that through this next period you can respect my privacy so that sooner rather than later I can return to playing rugby league as best I can.
"When I do, I hope that everybody sees a better person."
Barba's manager Gavin Orr maintained that the suspension could be lifted within weeks. He said he and Barba supported the club's actions.
''He's identified that he's struggling with a few issues with his family,'' Orr said. ''He wants a bit of private time to deal with those issues. I hope he'll be back in a week or two.
''He doesn't want to let anyone down. That's the big thing.
''There's just some personal issues between him and his family that he needs to address. He's going to be working hard over the next few weeks to address them.
''He just wants some personal time at the moment.''
with Brad Walter
- Sydney Morning Herald
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