Barba and Guildford: triumph of commonsense

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Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs rugby league player Ben Barba and Ainslie Currie arrive for the Dally M awards in Sydney, September 4, 2012. (Image: AAP/Paul Miller)

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Ben Barba and Zac Guilford are two young men who have faced difficult personal issues lately.

Guilford, a former All Black and Canterbury Crusaders player, admitted yesterday in a press conference he is an alcoholic. This was after a series of misdemeanours involving alcohol over the past year.

Barba, the Canterbury Bulldogs fullback and 2012 Dally M Medal winner, was suspended by his club indefinitely after breaching the Bulldog’s code of conduct. He is also apparently battling personal issues.

Both have been released to play for their respective teams in the coming weeks.

I read an article in a New Zealand newspaper today arguing against Guildford retaining his contract with the New Zealand Rugby Union.

He was given many chances and has stepped over the line every time with his poor behaviour. What kind of example does this set for a young rugby player wanting to make it professionally? Rip up his contract, it said.

What a load of rubbish. How narrow-minded can you be? Do you know the actual issues?

Equally I also read some fans’ opinions about how Barba shouldn’t come back into the game for the whole year.

Again, he kept breaching the club’s code of conduct and what kind of example does this set for others? He shouldn’t be back for a long time they said.

How much of the whole story do they know? Do they have a personal insight into what Barba has been going through? No.

Happily and very rightly, the NZRU and the Canterbury Bulldogs haven’t acted on such a whim. They have allowed their two respective players to come back when ready.

They have reportedly provided support in different ways, whether it be health professionals or from the organisation itself.

Particularly in Guildford’s case, where his indiscretions were played out in public, terminating his contract would have been the easy option. But we can now reflect on two cases where sporting bodies allowed their players support to get help they required.

Barba is still coming to terms with what needs to be done to get himself in the right frame of mind and has apologized to his teammates for letting them down. Guilford has admitted he has a mental illness and it is something he will continue to seek treatment for.

It was probably a close call for both organisations to say “adios”, but the NZRU and Bulldogs should be applauded for exploring all options to help the individuals involved.

Let’s hope Barba and Guildford continue their recoveries.

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