Cronulla release Barba after positive cocaine test

Cronulla Sharks have released their Premiership winning fullback Ben Barba from his contract as he prepares to check into rehab.

The 27-year-old tested positive for cocaine four days after the Sharks won the NRL Grand Final against Melbourne Storm.

Barba, a Dally M winner in 2012, has been in rehabilitation before to deal with anger issues and a gambling problem.

In a club statement, Sharks CEO Lyall Gorman said: “This is an incredibly difficult situation for Ben, his family and our club and all involved with it,”

“While Ben will be a major loss to our football club, the far greater priority is for him to focus on his long-term future away from football and we will continue to support Ben throughout that process in any way we can.”

Following the positive test, Barba will have to serve a 12-week suspension if he decides to return to the NRL.

“I know and accept I need to take some time away from the game to deal with some personal issues,” said Barba.

“As footballers we often find it hard to speak up about having problems, but this decision has lifted so much pressure off myself that I cannot start to explain just how much better I feel by taking this action.”