Spotlight takes its toll
Prevent the problems instead of treating the symptoms - that's Clyde Rathbone's view for helping the generation of superstars being thrust into the sporting limelight as teenagers.
And while Ben Barba has stepped away from rugby league to deal with his personal demons, Rathbone believes the Canterbury Bulldog can return to the NRL when he's truly happy with his life.
Fallen stars are becoming too common in Australia's top sporting codes.
You only need to look at the history of NRL poster boys to see how the pressure and spotlight affect some of the game's greatest players.
There's Barba - stood down from the Bulldogs indefinitely this week - who's dealing with gambling and family problems.
Todd Carney won the Dally M Medal in 2010 and then by halfway through the next year his alcohol problems were back.
Brett Stewart had a fall from grace just as the NRL made him the face of the competition.
So is it anyone's fault - the players, the clubs, the competition organisers, player managers, the supporters? Or is it inevitable that some will crumble under the pressure?
It's easy for fans to judge. Why should players on contracts worth hundreds of thousands of dollars be stuffing up? Why do they throw away the dream?
''But the punters forget sports stars are people,'' Rathbone said.
''They forget you are human and that prevents a level of empathy from the fans.
''When you turn on the television and watch 80 minutes of football, you see a performance and that's it. It doesn't matter if it's Ben Barba or anyone else, people just want to be happy.
''It doesn't matter if what makes you happy is painting pictures all day or playing footy, but you need to find what that is.
''To say he should suck it up and play through, I can't see that having a good outcome. The key message I want to get across is that sports people have the same human frailties as anyone else and athletes are often more vulnerable to certain things than the public because of the situations [they] are in.
''The assumption that you're a professional athlete and you're equipped to handle it is false.''
Rathbone knows better than most what it's like to lead a double life. The ACT Brumbies winger used to obsess about his rugby performances when he was a rising star.
If he didn't play well, he was shattered. If he dominated, he was riding a high.
When injuries prematurely ended his career in 2009, he spiralled into depression.
He overcame his personal battles away from the spotlight before going public last year. Now he's back playing rugby and while at 32 he doesn't want to be known as the ''depression guy'', he's equipped to handle the attention.
Some players hide their inner demons well.
No one knew Nathan Hindmarsh had a gambling problem during his career as a Parramatta legend until he released his book last year.
No one thought that Rathbone had his personal problems until he went public last year.
Barba's a different case. He's a star on the rise who was the best player in the competition last year.
At 23, he should be nearing the prime of his career.
Instead he's stepped away from the game to try to get his life back on track. It's the right move, player welfare has to be put before on- field performances.
Rathbone says that starts with player managers. And he means managers, not agents.
The 26-Test Wallaby fears agents put money before welfare, opening players to the vulnerable jump from the unknown to superstar.
He wants to see the void filled by managers who are interested in players' long-term futures because ''it's easy for agents when players are making money, the real skill is helping guys develop outside of football so they're ready for the next phase''.
It's easy to sit back and say Barba's dealing with issues that many in the public face every day.
Why should he get special treatment if he's got the same problem as everyone else?
''But there's not a one-size-fits-all solution for something like this,'' Rathbone said.
''The fact it's all playing out publicly is an issue and that means it's not a bad idea to take some time away.
''Players are now becoming professional younger, they don't need to think about anything and there's a lack of balance.
''Football is just one part of your life … it seems like the most important part but it never really is and I don't think that message is getting through.
''My injuries made me realise I wasn't bulletproof. The codes are reactive. The best way to go is to have guys exposed early … prevent the problems rather than treat the symptoms.''
Anyone who's seen Barba play hopes that he can get back on the field and recapture the form that catapulted him to the top of the competition.
The eyes of the NRL will be watching his return. He will be judged for what he does on the field.
Even if he overcomes his issues, the pressure will be even greater.
''He has to come to the realisation the pressure is irrelevant. The sooner you realise none of that matters, the sooner the pressure dissolves,'' Rathbone said.
''People will watch and scrutinise him, but none of that matters if he's got perspective on life and realises that footy's not the be-all and end-all.''