Within ten minutes of the Canterbury Bulldogs announcing that they had stood down prized fullback, Ben Barba, the rugby league world went into meltdown.
Social media exploded and the 2012 Dally M Medallist was trending around Australia.
In a statement released by the club at 11.27am on Monday morning, it was noted that Barba would be suspended indefinitely from all contractual obligations.
“Whilst we all know the undoubted on-field attributes and abilities that Ben displays, we must always maintain our focus on the more important issues of personal development and accountability,” Chief Executive Officer Todd Greenberg said in the statement.
“It is our hope that the media and the many rugby league fans understand and respect the need for privacy in order for Ben and his family to make the relevant adjustments that are required for him to return to the playing field.”
Clearly this issue goes far deeper than simply a footy player who has lost his way.
The move by the Bulldogs to alleviate the pressure on Barba and give him the time to work through his personal problems is a brave one from the club. He is their superstar after all. To let Barba step away from the limelight and concentrate on something far more import than rugby league, that being family and his own personal wellbeing, shows what the Canterbury club really stands for.
Everyone is accountable for their own actions. But right now Barba needs some space. The Bulldogs have given him that.
Unfortunately though, the unforgiving rugby league world we live in showed its true colours once again.
Before Bulldogs CEO Greenberg could front the media, the rumours began.
Reports suggest the brilliant fullback has a gambling problem. Then it was a drinking problem. People on social media even suggested he was smoking drugs.
Yes he recently split with his long-term girlfriend who is the mother of their children.
What did the Nine Network do with this?
Sports anchor Wally Lewis reported that Barba had been stood down for domestic violence against his former partner. Remember, Nine are the broadcasters and supposed avid lovers of our sport.
You can argue Barba is no different to any other man that find themselves in trouble. Kind of hard to argue that point unless you’re a role model to thousand of kids around the nation and in the spotlight on a daily basis.
The fact is, the Bulldogs have come forward and said Barba needs help. He is sick.
At 1.30pm Monday afternoon, Greenberg held a press conference.
Greenberg denied Barba had been charged and the speculation that domestic violence was unfounded.
“The priority is not to get Ben back on the football field.. It is to provide help.
“…This is not a police matter. We’re dealing with it under the club’s code of conduct.
“…You can talk about gambling, alcohol, simple etiquette, personal relationships”
Help for what, is anyone’s guess.
But for the time being, let him get help.