OPINION: What Ben Barba’s release means for Cronulla

The Cronulla Sharks have released Ben Barba from his playing contract after the star tested positive to illicit drugs shortly after the club’s maiden Grand Final win.

Barba, who has had a chequered past, stepped the line one too many times, and will now be supported away from the spotlight as he undertakes rehabilitation. It is the fullback’s second positive test for illicit drugs.

With all the positive press surrounding their maiden win, the drama is an unnecessary blight on the club, and has left many fans disappointed in Barba, who appeared to have taken his second chance in the NRL by storm, producing a stellar 2016 season, including scoring the Shark’s first try in the Grand Final.

The troubled star seemed to be back on the straight and narrow following a rough few years in which he was stood down firstly by the Canterbury Bulldogs for alleged domestic abuse and alcohol reliance, before struggling at Brisbane and being released early to join Cronulla.

Barba put himself on an alcohol ban throughout the season following a big night in which he had a bust up with team mate Sosaia Feki, as he looked to make sure he did not slip back in to old ways.

But it seems the demons could not be put to rest, and Barba’s playing career may now be over, at least in the short term, as he looks to deal with the issues away from football.

For the Sharks, the loss of Barba will douse some flames in their attack, though young Valentine Holmes, who has been waiting on the wing for the fullback spot to open up, is certainly capable of filling the void as the club looks to defend their Premiership in 2017.

The Cronulla club was in talks to lock up Holmes on a long term deal, and the opening of the fullback role looks certain to make that deal all the sweeter to the Kangaroo’s winger. Long term, it may be a blessing in disguise for the club.

In the short term however, there is a fallen star, a club in damage control, and a Premiership fairy tale being tarnished. It is a scandal both the NRL and the Sharks could have done without.

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