JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Not playing rugby league may be the best decision for Ben Barba

Date

Steve Mascord

DISCORD 2013: Edition Nine

Off-field problems ... Ben Barba

Off-field problems ... Ben Barba Photo: Getty Images

And so to Ben (nee Benji) Barba.

For the past two months, untold amounts of newsprint has been given over to torturous tales of pre-season army camps, sand hills and training sessions in the scorching sun.

“I felt like giving up,” our heroes have been quoted as saying. “I pushed myself to the edge. I questioned my decision to join (insert name of club).”

But when Ben Barba told a trainer in Goulburn last weekend, “I don't want to play footy any more,” it was a completely different matter. Barba has been having troubles off the field, as we all well know, and has been given time by his club to address these.

We all go into a very conventional way of thinking when these things happen, don't we? Once he gets his life in order, we assume, Ben Barba will be back.

It is a given in our society that if you are good at something, if you win acclaim for your abilities, and you are paid a lot of money for it, you will do it for as long as you can.

Why does it have to be like that? Discord would submit that this is only the norm because people accumulate responsibilities and pressures when they are successful, and are locked into doing what got them there, usually by financial factors.

I know I have written here before about our sport fawning over Sonny Bill Williams and Israel Folau, and how it shows a lack of self-respect on our part.

That is no indictment on those players' ambitions, even if the way SBW pursued his was initially offensive. In fact, I would contest that the most satisfying way for anyone to negotiate a working life is to become exceptional at something, quit, do something completely different, and repeat until retirement or death.

More of us would do that without the straps of responsibility digging into our shoulders, to paraphrase the character Ryan Bingham in Up In The Air.

If you are young, well paid, intelligent and beholden to no one there is nothing wrong with deciding you want to do something else even when the rest of the world wants you to stay where you are. To quote a lyric written by Warriors fan Jon Toogood: “When you go against the grain, do you know how beautiful you are?”

So beyond all the homilies and well-intentioned reassurances, we should afford Ben Barba the ultimate “space”, “compassion” and “freedom”.

The freedom to get his life in order, be a perfectly balanced human being, and still not “want to play footy any more”.

...........

THE best part of the new NRL commercial is women being depicted playing rugby league – or touch footy – rather than just cheering in the stands.

Many have seen the Women In League round as having a hint of tokenism in recent years with washing jumpers and working in the canteen given more plaudits than actually putting on the boots and playing.

It is to be hoped women's rugby league becomes more closely associated with the men's game in Australia, as it is in New Zealand.

......................

I'm back in Oz now after five months on the road, and I want to thank everyone who has supported the column since it was taken on by The Sydney Morning Herald.

Last week, Red Top said turning down the Auckland Nines offer would be a sign of insularity among NRL clubs. But isn't the fact they are set to play it among themselves a sign of insularity anyway?

Don't Get It made some points about safety and tackling styles. But if techniques that were once safe are now dangerous, I still think doctors need to protect players from them.

Tony said the Auckland Nines would fail – I assume he means commercially. All the more reason, then, for us to get something out of it for ourselves. See my column in Wednesday's Rugby League Week.

Andy Daley argued that Auckland is also a league town. I would say it is the biggest league town in New Zealand, for sure! And the only place where the game sometimes gives rugby union a run for its money.

Thomas Foolery said the club season should only go for 22 rounds. He's right, of course, but we are now locked into television contract in which the game has offered broadcasters 26 – so it's not going to change any time soon.

Gav asked what was happening with the UK television rights for the NRL. I get asked this every second day. There is a theory out there that they have been bought by the new BT Vision platform, which won't be on air until August. That's why nothing is being said. Whether round one is available on Ustream … will be very interesting indeed.

Timmy83 said he was told by the NRL that Setanta would be broadcasting games online and on TV – but wasn't sure of the territories. Thanks for the info, Timmy.

James Cook questioned Cameron Smith's opposition to the Nines. I am not sure the banning of the shoulder charge will improve rugby league James – it's just a necessary evil. As for Cameron, if he has concerns for players' welfare because of an increasing workload, I would have thought it was commendable that he speak up. It's just an opinion, after all – until the RLPA gets involved.

Here's the forum.

Podcast will be back next week

14 comments so far

  • Interesting idea Steve. I suspect people put a lot of pressure on themselves to keep playing Rugby League, or other sports, because of the money involved, even if its not otherwise in their best interests. Now I don't know Barba personally at all, but I suspect he has no hope of having a different career in which he could earn that much money. Then again there's heaps of blokes in their early 20s who have normal jobs and who lead a decent life.

    Commenter
    Novas
    Location
    Canberra
    Date and time
    February 28, 2013, 11:06AM
    • Steve I normally disagree with pretty much everything in your column (I still love reading it as a different opinion to mine can only open my eyes) but I've got to say you are spot on with Ben Barba. How many people have had a go at one career and then decided after a few years it's not for them. He may still want to play footy up in Mackay but at the same time it may not be the right career for him.

      Commenter
      Agree to Disagree
      Date and time
      February 28, 2013, 11:50AM
      • I neglected to mention that Ben does have two children so he is not completely free of responsibility... worth adding.

        Commenter
        Steve Mascord
        Date and time
        February 28, 2013, 11:52AM
        • So when is Steve Mascord going to do what he suggests, quit sports jornalism, and challenge himself to do something else? ;-)

          Commenter
          Mark Sargent
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          February 28, 2013, 12:28PM
          • Mark, I quit the Telegraph in 2008 with no job to go to. I've returned to music journalism even though it pays zilch. I run three websites and produce a weekly podcastl which- combined - turn over no money at all. I'm lucky, I have no-one relying on me and I can do stuff for fun. It's important to make the most of it. Footy journalism is enormous fun.

            Commenter
            Steve Mascord
            Location
            Perth
            Date and time
            February 28, 2013, 3:52PM
        • So what exactly are Ben Barba's problems? Okay, let's have a stab at them. He is still young (well, still immature), has hit the headlines in a high-profile sport, probably got married too young, doesn't know much outside rugby league except how to fall in with the wrong crowd of drunken dickheads and is a fair way from his family and their support (and somebody's boot up his backside). It shouldn't be that hard for him to work out how best to go forward, even for an over-paid, insulated "star" rugby league player. Grow up, look after your kids and excel at the thing you are best at - playing rugby league for a lot of money. Oh, and despite your track record, your choice of a wife seems to have been a pretty good decision.

          Commenter
          Stop the rot
          Date and time
          February 28, 2013, 12:54PM
          • What's that son? Your young & have a massive amout of pressure & expectation coming from all directions? It's something only a select few can even come close to comprehending? You've got 2 little kids & domestic problems at home? Your struggling emotionally with it all & have made some poor decisions?... Well, suck it up princess & get back to work.

            Geez, @Stop the rot, I'm glad you weren't my Dad. The blokes a super star footy player but he's still just 23y/o kid. He's got plenty of time to come back & play footy when he's ready.

            Ps Mascord, I talked to immigration; they said you're not being let back in the country if you've still got that pony tail happening....

            Commenter
            Marto
            Location
            Newie
            Date and time
            February 28, 2013, 1:59PM
          • Marto,

            Barba is 23 year not 15, does he need to be 30 before he is classed us grown up? The bloke has two kids and needs to man up.

            He has two options either move back to Mackay and get a job in the mines for a 150k a year ( still more money than most people make a year) and play in the local comp or.... he
            can accept the limelight and all the privledges that come from earning over 500k a year.

            At the end of the day he needs to sort himself out because with all those tats over his arms & neck he has a few years to cash in before he wont be bale to get a decent job

            Commenter
            PJ
            Date and time
            February 28, 2013, 3:24PM
          • So negative! No wonder he wants to be out of the limelight. How about you just mind your own business cause I'm thinking you've got issues yourself.

            Commenter
            KM
            Date and time
            March 01, 2013, 10:00AM
        • Steve,
          Did you stop over in Thailand on your way back and smoke some strong hooch? For many of these blokes, league, afl or soccer etc is all they have. Another career may not be feasible or attainable. Whp wouldnt want to be in a team environment, working together, getting results and getting well rewarded for something that the overwhelming if not complete majority love doing?

          Commenter
          thetruthreller
          Location
          Canberra
          Date and time
          February 28, 2013, 1:34PM

          More comments

          Make a comment

          You are logged in as [Logout]

          All information entered below may be published.

          Error: Please enter your screen name.

          Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

          Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

          Error: Please enter your comment.

          Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

          Post to

          You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

          Thank you

          Your comment has been submitted for approval.

          Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

          Four Nations 2014

          Round 1
          Sat, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
          ENG 32 vs SAM 26 Stats
          AUS 12 vs NEWZ 30 Stats
          View All Fixtures
          Round 2
          Sat, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
          NEWZ 14 vs SAM 12 Report Stats
          Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
          AUS 16 vs ENG 12 Report Stats
          View All Fixtures
          Round 3
          Sat, 08 NovTimes shown AEDT
          NEWZ 16 vs ENG 14 Report Stats
          Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
          AUS 44 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
          View All Fixtures
          Final
          Sat, 15 NovTimes shown AEDT
          NEWZ 22 vs AUS 18 Report Stats
          View All Fixtures
          Four Nations 2014
          Overall standings
          Team P W L D +/- Pts
          New Zealand 3 3 0 0 22 6
          Australia 3 2 1 0 12 4
          England 3 1 2 0 0 2
          Samoa 3 0 3 0 -34 0
          View all
           
          Featured advertisers