Truckin’ hell! Banned Barba must start over
A shattered Ben Barba has begun a new career as a truck driver as the troubled rugby league bad boy attempts to recover from an NRL life ban following his sacking by the Cowboys.
The Courier-Mail can reveal Barba will return to the workforce on Monday, driving trucks in hometown Mackay in a desperate bid to pay the bills for his young family after having his Cowboys contract torn-up a fortnight ago.
Once rugby league's No.1 player after winning the Dally M Medal in 2012, Barba has gone from an NRL star earning $500,000 to a blue-collar battler earning around $27.20 an hour - the average wage for an Australian truck driver.
Barba met with North Queensland's welfare team on Wednesday to discuss his future as he plans to seek multifaceted professional help for alcohol abuse, anger management and relationship counselling.
Banned from also playing local league for Mackay, Barba is resigned to driving trucks with a view to one day securing more lucrative income working in the mines.
Barba had been preparing to make his Cowboys debut against St George Illawarra in the NRL premiership opener next month. Now he will trade fame and fortune for an honest day's work driving the streets of Mackay.
Cowboys' head of football Peter Parr said the club is trying to help Barba, partner Ainslie Currie and their four young daughters rebuild their life without a professional football income.
"Ben starts driving trucks on Monday and his longer-term goal is to work in the mines, so I hope he can turn things around," Parr said.
"Ben's welfare is still important to us.
"I've been in touch with Ben and he was in touch with our welfare manager the other day.
"We are going to help Ben wherever possible. At the end of the day, Ben is a human being with a partner and four young kids and we can't just toss them out without any care.
"They are a young family and we feel we have a responsibility to help them - if indeed they want that help."
Barba had his Cowboys contract torn up two weeks ago following an alleged altercation with Ms Currie at Townsville casino - prompting the National Rugby League to issue a life ban to the talented fullback.
Queensland police are still investigating the incident, but Currie is standing by Barba, who met with the Cowboys' welfare unit amid fears he is sinking into depression.
Barba's management says the sacked North Queensland fullback is picking up the pieces with the support of Currie, who has contacted the Cowboys asking for the father of their four daughters to be allowed to play local rugby league again.
Barba and Currie are high-school sweethearts from hometown Mackay. When Barba was crowned the NRL's best player in 2012, she was there as a proud partner as the then Bulldogs ace received the prestigious Dally M Medal.
Now Currie has told family members she will stand firm as Barba prepares for alternative employment to put food on the table for their daughters Bodhi, Bronte, Blaise and Bobbi.
"Ben has had some dark days," his manager Gavin Orr said.
"It may seem weird to some, but the person who is helping him through all this is his partner Ainslie.
"The family unit have been under a lot of stress, but they are still together.
"They are in Mackay at the moment. They can't go back to the house they were renting (in Townsville) because of the floods, so they are living with family members in Mackay.
"Ainslie is standing by him. She feels bad about the whole episode. It's a tough situation and they are trying their best to work through it."
Orr said Barba accepts his professional sporting career is all but over, but was hoping to play local league in Mackay.
"Ben would like to play local football, but apparently the state leagues are following the NRL's ban," he said.
"Ben is looking into some counselling now. He's doing some outpatient work and he accepts he has some issues with alcohol.
"All Ben can control now is getting a job and trying to support his family."
In November, Barba told The Courier-Mail he planned to play league in Mackay after he retired from the NRL, but the Queensland rugby league ruled out any comeback.
"The QRL supports the NRL's current position on the matter," a spokesman said.
"While we have not received any formal request for Ben to play in Queensland, we can confirm the sanction imposed by the NRL will extend to all QRL competitions."
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