Just last week, Ben Barba chatted to the media with a big smile across his mug, right before he hopped in his car, presumably to make a beeline for the airport.
Next stop: Toulon.
Barba thought he was pulling the meanest fast one on the NRL that had ever been pulled – if they weren’t going to let him serve his 12 round ban playing part time rugby in the Top 14, he was going to relocate there permanently.
The expression on his face as he jumped in his car, baby in hand, said it all – equal parts “well, the NRL have really done stuffed up now,” and, “that'll show ‘em.”
Only one problem Ben – the NRL will be around a long time after you’ve retired, and you’ll quickly be another name on a page.
No player has ever been bigger than rugby league, and a reversal of that trend is certainly not going to start with you mate.
Hell, you never even played a game of proper representative football!
Most baby boomers would be quick to point out Barba playing a classic millennial play – failing to take responsibility for a problem he has inevitably caused himself.
But as the former Dally M medalist lies on a beach on the Mediterranean coast, daydreaming about the anarchy he has plunged the league into through his absence, hopefully, it dawns on him the one and only group missing having him around – the undyingly loyal Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks fans.
That’s right, by not taking his medicine and copping the punishment he’d effectively served himself, he was willing to double back on the club that had scooped him up and given him another chance when it looked like he may not get one.
Even after betraying the clubs’ trust by again being caught with cocaine in his system, they were willing to sign him back upon a completion of a stay in rehab in Thailand – a favour absolutely unnecessary for the club to offer him.
Although, given the prospect of seeing young Kangaroo Valentine Holmes in the fullback jersey next year, the memory of your contributions at Shark Park may be forgotten quicker than you thought.
At any rate, as Barba astutely pointed out to us before he departed for France, “the NRL hasn’t given me anything.”
That’s right Ben. Nothing apart from fame, fortune and the loving adoration of millions of fans. All of which you took away from yourself.
Do the league a favour mate, please keep to your word and don’t return. The NRL is better off without you.