Ben Barba has had a chequered history; he was sacked by Cronulla Sharks in 2016 after testing positive for cocaine and, after playing a stellar role for St Helens in 2017, has now been sacked by new club North Queensland Cowboys over an incident in a casino in Townsville, Australia. Despite being a wonderful player and one of the most naturally-gifted Rugby League stars in the past decade, Barba's off-field behaviour should mean he never gets a Rugby League club again.

How many more chances?

It seems that Ben Barba has more lives than a cat; throughout the past decade, he has had chance after chance. Now though, if what is alleged to be true - that he physically assaulted his partner in a casino - then he should never get another shot at playing the sport.

Aged 19, Barba had just broken into the Canterbury Bulldogs side. In late March 2009, the Darwin-born Barba started his first game in a Bulldogs shirt - albeit at stand-off.

The Bulldogs were defeated by Manly, and, on the night after the game, Barba got into a drunken fight with teammates Jamal Idris and Lee Te Maari at a Wentworthville pub car park. He was subsequently dropped from the first-team to their feeder club, the Bankstown City Bulls, in the New South Wales Cup, before returning for the Sharks 15 rounds later.

Barba had an excellent few years with the Bulldogs, winning the Dally M Medal in 2012 after helping to guide his side to an NRL Grand Final.

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But, in late February 2013 at the age of 23, Barba was stood down indefinitely from player duties at the Bulldogs due to behavioural issues and for breaches of the club's code of conduct as a result of his off-field behaviour. Bulldogs CEO Todd Greenberg stated that Barba was "ill" and "needed help", following a split from his long-term partner. Barba returned in round four for the Bulldogs.

In late August 2013, Barba asked for a release from his contract to join Brisbane Broncos since he and his family were from Queensland.

In early November 2014, he was on the move again when incoming boss Wayne Bennett said he would not need Barba for the following season. Cronulla stepped in and Barba signed a three-year deal starting from 2015.

Barba would go on to have a standout season for the Sharks in 2016, playing an integral part in the Sharks' first Premiership-winning season. Yet, Barba was once more in the limelight in November 2016 when he tested positive for cocaine and was suspended indefinitely by the NRL.

The Sharks granted him an immediate release from his contract to deal with these issues whilst he was dealt a 12-match ban which covered both Super League and the NRL.

Code swap

In February 2017, Barba made the decision to sign for Rugby Union side Toulon, on account of the fact that his ban only applied to Rugby League. However, 96 minutes of Rugby Union later and he was sacked by the French club.

St Helens swooped for Barba in May 2017 and the fullback enjoyed a good end to the season before winning the Man of Steel in 2018, following his role in helping Saints win the League Leaders' Shield.

His superb year alerted NRL clubs once more with North Queensland Cowboys signing him in September 2018. Yet, before he has even played a game for the Cowboys, he finds himself out on his ear after being captured on CCTV as well as being identified by a number of witnesses for allegedly assaulting his partner.

Wrong message

One of the most important traits of being a Rugby League player in the modern game is being a good role model. Well, Barba is the complete opposite; a drug abuser and now an alleged woman-beater, Barba deserves nothing else from the game. Though the sport should not turn its back on him completely - he has clearly always suffered with personal issues - and should perhaps offer help for him outside the game, he simply should not be allowed anywhere near a Rugby League field again.

Imagine a player of his talent wasting it like he has done throughout his career. Some pundits have touted the possibility of a return to Super League, but why would we want him in our game anyway? If his conduct is not good enough for any NRL side, then why should it be good enough for one of our top flight sides? I don't care how good he is on the field, if a Rugby League star cannot control himself properly off it, then that should be the end of his career.

He has an attitude that needs stamping out of the game forever, and such behaviour should not be tolerated, let alone pardoned. Super League clubs should steer well clear, but, like with Zak Hardaker, a few of the top-spending sides might just not be able to resist.

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