The Indigenous All Stars side has named a replacement for Ben Barba after he received a lifetime ban from the NRL.
Parramatta’s Bevan French will take Barba’s spot in the All Stars for their clash with New Zealand Maori on February 15th.
Barba is under police investigation for an alleged assault at a Townsville casino on January 26th.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg spoke with emotion in his voice when delivering the news that Barba would not be welcome back into the game on Tuesday.
“What I asked them to do was to view the CCTV footage that we spoke about. They’ve reported back to me and I can confirm that there was a physical altercation between the player and his partner,” Greenberg said.
“In those circumstances I can confirm, as I outlined to you on the weekend, one—his contract with the Cowboys has been terminated, and two—his registration with the game is no longer. And I can’t see a time, at any time in the future, that he’ll be welcome back.”
The allegations against Barba have drawn responses from other codes and organisations.
The Super League, where Barba played last season, said on Monday that the former Cowboy won’t be allowed to play if he was banned by the NRL.
There will be no lifeline across codes either, according to Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle, who confirmed that any ban by the NRL would be upheld by Rugby Australia.
Barba had just returned to the NRL preseason with the Cowboys before the alleged incident in Townsville, after two years abroad. He was banned by the NRL after the 2016 Grand Final for his second illicit drug strike.
“This is an enormous outcome because this is a guy who now loses his livelihood in his career and the game,” Mr Greenberg said.
“But it’s a very clear message for a lot of players in our sport, that it is a great privilege to play rugby league, to put a jersey on, to earn a significant income as they deserve as footballers, but it comes with real responsibility.
“And if you start to step outside the crease you’re going to put your livelihood at risk and this is a prime example.”
The try-scoring machine French joins an exciting backline including James Roberts, Blake Ferguson, Latrell Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr.
French made his debut in the Indigenous All Stars team in 2017, a year after his 1st grade debut for the Eels.
He’s scored 35 tries in 47 games for the club and will need to be at his best against an impressive Maori All Stars outfit.
ALL STARS TEAMS:
Indigenous All Stars: 1. Bevan French, 2. Blake Ferguson, 3. James Roberts, 4. Latrell Mitchell, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Cody Walker, 7. Tyrone Roberts, 8. Andrew Fifita, 9. Nathan Peats, 10. Leilani Latu, 11. David Fifita, 12. Adam Elliott, 13. Tyrone Peachey. Res: 14. Will Chambers, 15. Josh Kerr, 16. Chris Smith, 17. Alex Johnston, 18. Jesse Ramien, 19. Tyrell Fuimaono, 20. Kotoni Staggs.
Maori All Stars: 1. Peta Hiku, 2. Dane Gagai, 3. Esan Marsters, 4. Dean Whare, 5. Jordan Kahu, 6. Kalyn Ponga, 7. Jahrome Hughes, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Brandon Smith, 10. Jordan McLean, 11. Kevin Proctor, 12. Tohu Harris, 13. Adam Blair. Res: 14. Danny Levi, 15. Brad Takairangi, 16. James Fisher-Harris, 17. James Tamou, 18. Gerard Beale, 19. Corey Harawira-Naera, 20. Joseph Tapine.
By Keiran Deck