As to Barba himself, the question arises as to what will become of the one-time prodigy. Rugby league seems to have washed its hands of him, and the calls to ban him forever have been consistent, strong – and observed. In the end, however, he remains the key provider to a family of six. Given Barba’s wife – who was wronged in the domestic violence episode – still supports him, is it really the right thing for the NRL just to throw him on the scrap-heap? What then? How does he feed his family?
I accept playing again is out of the question. Despite his prodigious talents, Barba has demonstrated that he is a risk of disgracing every jersey he wears. But in terms of the urgent job that the NRL has ahead of it to get their players to grasp the danger of getting on the turps, is anyone better placed than Barba to deliver the message?
Barba, by all accounts, is not a bad man – but a demon with grog in him. You, Peter Beattie, I know to be a good man with a good heart. Surely, Barba would be perfect for the suggested role, at least for a year or two and talking to junior players as well, to allow him time to transition into different work?
His first lesson might be particularly apposite to the Cowboys.
“Listen, if you have a player on your books with a record of troubled behaviour when pissed, here’s an idea – put out an all-points bulletin on him to teammates: ‘‘Your job, if you see him getting on it, is to get him off it. Get him in a cab, get him home, get him away.
‘‘At the bare hungry, sniffin’ MINIMUM, don’t keep drinking with him yourself.”
TFF had a rant on Thursday about the ludicrousness of the Darren Weir situation. One of the leading horse trainers in the country had his premises raided last week, was found to be in possession of three “jiggers” – cruel implements that are the equine version of cattle prods – and by this week the guts of the industry’s judicial process is wrapped up!
The racing authorities were reportedly aware of him likely having jiggers last August, but make no move for six months – perhaps, as Andrew Webster posited, to see racing’s high season safely out of the way? – and by this week there’s nothing to see here, folks, so move along. Weir doesn’t contest the charges, gets a lenient sentence, and racing tries to get back to business as usual? I call bullshit. That is not justice. That is not a genuine attempt to clean up your practices. Where is the resolute and very public attempt to find out?
You have an episode that Dyson Hore-Lacy SC calls “the greatest scandal in [Australian] racing history’’, and a single hearing a week later is meant to mop it up? And what I still don’t get is how, beyond a few dark mutterings, we still haven’t had leading trainers shouting from the rooftops how DISGUSTED they are, to have CHEATS in a sport they cherish? And we all want to know how widespread is such a practice, in an industry where everyone seems to know what a jigger is.
There are few signs yet of a sport that genuinely wants to excise an abhorrent and corrupt practice that goes to the heart of its integrity. It rather looks like one that simply wants to kick one foolish enough to get caught cheating off the gravy train, and keep rolling.
TFF’s yarn last week about the Orienteering race at Manly last month where the first four place-getters had the last names of North, South, East and West, did indeed draw a few responses. One reader noted that it reminded him of a headline resulting from a kerfuffle in lawn bowls: “Blue On Greens As Women In White See Red.”
Another reader, Andrew Bolton – who I swear must have too much time on his hands – notes that all winners of the 2017 golf majors had six letters in both their first and second names.
Sergio Garcia won the Masters at Augusta while Brooks Koepka claimed a second consecutive US Open. Jordan Spieth took the British Open while Justin Thomas rounded off the majors with the PGA Championship.
What they said
Commentator Jess Dweck tweets, after a very dull first half of the Super Bowl: “These teams are playing like they know whoever wins goes to the White House.”
American author Amber Tamblyn tweets in reference to Colin Kaepernick: “Hi there while you’re enjoying this mediocre Maroon 5 halftime please remember a football legend was blacklisted from this entire sport for merely putting his knee on the ground in protest of black people being murdered. Enjoy your pop music.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writing about the Super Bowl: “It is the biggest promotion of capitalism in the world and I’m good with that. The game should be exciting and the commercials entertaining. But is there any room in all that commerce for social conscience? Is free speech only expressed in commercials?”
NRL star Dylan Napa on his surprise gig as an amateur porn star in a series of leaked videos: “Nothing surprises me now, man. Everything is out there … It sucks, I wish it wasn’t me, but it is.”
After Ben Barba’s alleged episode of domestic violence, Todd Greenberg reads NRL players the riot act – again: “We have run out of patience and tolerance for misbehaviour off the field. I’ll repeat again that violence against women is at the very top of that list. If you’re violent against women you can expect to be removed from the game. That starts now.”
Billy Moore on the NRL’s off-field woes: “Rugby league is a lie. We lie about women’s round and White Ribbon. The bar was low for rugby league anyway but I think Ben Barba is the sixth NRL individual [this off-season] to [face] accusations of violence against women.”
“They don’t have chicken salt for chips so that drives me crazy.»
Michael Dickson misses Australian condiments
Narelle Walters, wife of Kevin, is convinced that the Broncos stole one of her husband’s slogans – “Better Never Stops” – and she feels so strongly that she put it on social media: “I notice the Broncos have launched their 2019 marketing campaign. The exact theme Kevin presented in his ‘interview’. What’s the collective term for a group of horses/broncos? A team? More like a pack of c—s.” I think she sounds sincere.
Australian NFL star Michael Dickson on what he misses: “They don’t have chicken salt for chips so that drives me crazy, so I always take some over but sometimes you’re out and you don’t have chicken salt. It kills me.”
Hakeem al-Araibi, the Australian soccer player outrageously imprisoned in a Thai prison, as he was led from one more court appearance, to Craig Foster who continues to do wonderful work to free him: “Tell my wife I love her …” #SaveHakeem.
Team of the Week
Ajla Tomljanovic. The rising Australian tennis player made the final of the Thailand Open.
Australian Fed Cup team. Our women take on the might of the USA this weekend.
The Waratahs. As if you didn’t know, their Super Rugby season begins next Saturday evening, at Brookvale Oval at 7.45pm. Taking the game to suburban ovals is a good move.
Ben Simmons. Named as a reserve for the NBA All-Star Game.
Stephen Larkham. The Wallaby great, most recently the assistant to Michael Cheika, was made to pay the price this week for the team’s woeful performances and has lost his coaching position.
New England Patriots and Tom Brady. The most successful NFL team in recent history added another Super Bowl victory to their list, in no small way courtesy of their quarterback Tom Brady who, despite being 41, says he will come back for another go next year.
Peter FitzSimons is a journalist and columnist with The Sydney Morning Herald.