Barba released by Sharks after failing drugs test

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NRL champions Cronulla Sharks have released Ben Barba after the full-back failed a drugs test.

Barba reportedly tested positive for cocaine only days after the Sharks won a first premiership title by beating Melbourne Storm in the grand final last month.

Cronulla revealed the 27-year-old playmaker has left the club to enable him to "address some significant personal issues" and had set off to attend "an intensive overseas program".

Barba said: "I know and accept I need to take some time away from the game to deal with some personal issues. I am accountable for myself and my actions and if I don't address them now I will certainly ruin my career and more importantly my life and that of my family.

"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.

"I hope to return to the game at some stage and am very grateful for the support of the Cronulla Sharks and I hope that one day I can again play beside this terrific bunch of guys.  

"I have made some tremendous friendships both within the playing ranks and throughout the coaching and administration teams. This has made it all the more difficult to make this decision but it's something I just had to do."

Sharks chief executive Lyall Gorman said: "This is an incredibly difficult situation for Ben, his family and our club and all involved with it. Ben has made a remarkable contribution to our club and community since joining it.

"It is, however, something we believe and accept is absolutely necessary in order to assist Ben to work through the challenges at hand.

"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.

"As this is a very challenging time for Ben and his family, Ben would appreciate if they were allowed to work through this very private matter."