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Ben Barba's heartache and conflict of being a Bulldog superstar

Ben Barba
Troubled Bulldogs star Ben Barba. Picture: Gregg Porteous Source: The Daily Telegraph

BEN Barba calls his split from childhood sweetheart Ainslie Currie a "mutual" decision, professes an undying love for his two children and admits he likes nothing more than a beer with his mates.
Just four days before his world came crashing down last Monday, the Bulldogs fullback sat in a Caringbah cafe with The Sunday Telegraph. He was smiling and appeared happy.
There was certainly no hint that a few days later a tearful Barba would be sitting opposite Canterbury chief executive Todd Greenberg and begging for time away from the game.
But before everything came to a head, Barba was sipping orange juice and discussing his remarkable rise to the top, sponsorship deals worth a potential $10 million and saying how he planned to find the balance between football and enjoying his young life.
It appeared he had navigated the tricky road that all young footballers face as they balance a professional career and their life in the spotlight."I go to pubs with the boys," Barba said. "I enjoy nothing more than having a beer with the boys on the weekend and all that stuff."As I have got older and this stuff (football career) has got more serious, I know what decisions are going to help me and hurt me."I think I have learned over time, as I have got older, how to deal with things. When I drink, I need to know what position I am putting myself into."The words now, with the benefit of hindsight, have a haunting ring to them.The Sunday Telegraph met with Barba to discuss a sponsorship portfolio which was expected to net as much as $1 million a year one day. Red Bull had just agreed to make him their first rugby league athlete, such is his appeal.
Now all that is in limbo.Barba spoke about the difficulty of keeping his image clean, as if trying to give an insight into how much he was struggling.

"Obviously it is tough. I am in a bubble," Barba said.
"What worked last year was I kept football on one side and the rest on the other.
"Outside of football, I separated it all and it was much easier for me that way."
Barba admitted to a slip up in North Queensland last year when he and his brother exchanged words with former Cowboys centre Josh Hannay.
"That was just me letting my guard down for a little bit," Barba said. "It wasn't much, but it turned into all these different stories coming from all over the shop. I am not sure how I do it really. It probably comes back to how much I know I can lose if I stuff up.
"I know what I have to lose. That keeps me in line."
Unprompted, Barba also spoke about his love for his two girls and his very public split from Currie.
"I have two little girls that I idolise," Barba said. "My daughters, they made me grow up. As you know, I am not with my partner now. It is a mutual thing. It is just the way we decided to go.
"They still help me. I might not be with them, but I know that they are there and that is why I probably try to make the right decisions as much as possible.
"I might have broken up with my partner and I might not see them as much now, but I know I still have a role to play with them and I have to be there for them.
"I still need to look after them and support them."
Barba even said he was excited about the year ahead.
"I need to enjoy it," he said. "Not worry about all this sort of stuff and what is going wrong and who is looking after me.
"I played last year on the back of just having fun and enjoying taking that field every week with the boys."
Barba then smiled, signed a boot for a young fan who had approached him at the cafe.
You would never have known the turmoil bubbling away inside him and that five days later his life would be turned upside down.
We all hope Ben Barba can conquer his demons.

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