NRL boss sticking by troubled star Barba

Last updated 07:02 28/02/2013
Ben Barba
Getty Images
BABY STEPS: Troubled NRL superstar Ben Barba will not make his comeback against Melbourne on Thursday.

Relevant offers


NRL confirms introduction of video bunker for 2016 season St George Illawarra Dragons proud of Russell Packer as they chase NRL clearance Kiwis have lacked focus in past rugby league tours, says new co-captain Adam Blair Papua New Guinea to co-host Rugby League World Cup with Australia, New Zealand New Zealand Warriors and Sam Tomkins included in NRL's flops of the year Channel Nine won't drop Andrew Johns, despite NRL Immortal's latest indiscretions Issac Luke, Adam Blair to co-captain Kiwis for England tour NRL star Greg Bird and Gold Coast Titans teammates cleared of cocaine charges Million-dollar deal reportedly on offer for next Kangaroos league coach Injury means Broncos' Jack Reed will miss England's tests against Kiwis

He may no longer be the face of the game, but NRL chief executive David Smith said rugby league would not turn its back on fallen Canterbury star Ben Barba - and that the Dally M medal winner would remain a key figure in the promotion of the code.

As the NRL season was officially launched at Sydney casino The Star on Wednesday night, Smith said the game would continue to support Barba - who was to be the face of the NRL in 2013 and launch the season before he was sensationally suspended by the Bulldogs over behavioural issues.

Barba is dealing with a host of personal problems stemming from a messy break-up with his longtime partner Ainslie Currie - the mother of his two children.

North Queensland co-captain Johnathan Thurston stepped in to replace Barba for Wednesday night's formalities, but Smith, who at one stage made a gaffe in referring to Barba as "Benji" (Marshall), said the game was not abandoning the star .

"Ben remains a key part of our promotion, and so he should be," Smith said during his official speech.

"The rugby league family is proud of him and he has earned that right.

"If we are to grow the game, we must stand by and help stars like Ben when they need it most.

"It's not only the rugby league way - it's the right way."

Thurston said he had no apprehension about filling in for Barba in a role that has been somewhat of a poisoned chalice over the years.

Manly's Brett Stewart and West Tigers' Marshall both found themselves involved in ugly off-field incidents just days after being given the 'face of the game' label in the past.

"Definitely not - it's a huge honour to be here to launch the season," Thurston said of any apprehension.

"No doubt I'll bunker down for a few months and make sure nothing happens," he added with his trademark smirk.

Thurston praised Barba -a teammate when the latter scored a hattrick of tries in the All Stars game earlier this month - and the Bulldogs for their handling of a situation that went well beyond rugby league.

"This is Benny Barba we're talking about as a person not as as a rugby league player," Thurston said.

"He needs to get himself right.

"This could have been a downward spiral - you know what happens with downward spirals - people harm themselves.

"We need to make sure Benny gets his head right - hopefully he can be back on the field soon."

With a host of the game's biggest stars in his presence, Thurston completed his duty of opening the season while Jessica Mauboy belted out the anthem for the game, a re-mix of the classic Etta James track Something's Got a Hold On Me.

Ad Feedback

During his speech Thurston said there was high anticipation across the board for every club.

"Every fan, every player, every team right now is dreaming of being there on grand final day and winning the NRL premiership, myself included," he said.

"I can't wait for the season to start."


Special offers
Opinion poll

Who is your pick for international league player of the year?

Shaun Johnson

Jesse Bromwich

Sam Burgess

James Graham

Greg Inglis

Johnathan Thurston

Vote Result

Related story: (See story)

Featured Promotions

Sponsored Content