NRL chief executive Dave Smith is prepared to accept that Ben Barba may never play again but he has vowed that the game will always support the Canterbury star.
Smith, who met with Bulldogs chief executive Todd Greenberg and chairman Ray Dib at 7.30am last Monday to discuss Barba's off-field problems, said that was the message he had wanted to relay at Wednesday night's season launch.
However, Smith's speech was overshadowed by a gaffe in which he mistakenly referred to Barba as ''Benji'' instead of ''Benny''.
''I am a bit pissed off because I really care about what we have done for Ben,'' Smith said. ''In my notes I put Benny because when I met him at the indigenous camp that is how he introduced himself.
''I stuffed up and I am irritated with myself as much as anything because I didn't want to detract from the fundamental message, which is about a young guy who is going through a difficult spot.
''It is also about rugby league's approach to these issues because I think culturally that is where we want to be and we want people to know that, from time to time, they are going to go through tough times and when you do we will be there.''
Smith said he had dealt with people suffering similar problems to Barba, whose life spiralled out of control during the off-season, in his previous job as chief executive of Lloyds International and his first thought was for the welfare of last year's player of the year.
''We are all young once and I can see how the pressures of life can get on top of you,'' Smith said. ''At the end of the day I am a humane sort of person and, whether you are an elite athlete and or a person working in an organisation, the pressures are intense in this modern day.
''If you take what Ben has been through in his rise and just how phenomenal he is, it is a lot of pressure for someone of his age.
''Nobody wants to see a player like that go out of the game but it pales into insignificance when it comes to his welfare as a human being.''
Even if Barba did not return to the playing field, Smith said he and his family would receive ongoing support from the game.
''He is a talented guy and it would be fantastic if he comes back to rugby league but equally as a human being whatever his ambitions in life are we want to help him through that,'' Smith said.
''He has given a lot to the game and he deserves our support. That is where the club was coming from and I was fully behind Todd and the chairman.
''I always think about player welfare first so we will support him, help him get through it and hopefully he will be back playing footy.
''I know the club has also looked after his family and the kids so, from my perspective, that is exactly the way it should play out.
''We wish him all the best and we will support him all the way and we are proud of him.''