Former NRL star Ben Barba has booted a bag of 13 goals as he made a staggering senior AFL debut in north Queensland.
Sacked and deregistered by the NRL last year, Barba first turned to playing soccer with the Mackay Rangers in the Mackay Premier Men’s League.
And now he’s taken up his third code in 18 months.
The Daily Mercury reports Barba made his club debut for the Eastern Swans in the Mackay Senior Men’s Cup competition on Saturday, playing his first game of Aussie rules since high school.
Barba made his debut in the reserve grade side — but was then called up to play in the top team just a couple hours later at the Magpies Sporting Club field in north-east Mackay.
The 31-year-old former NRL premiership winner and Dally M Player of the Year, kicked seven goals in the reserves playing at full forward.
The coach saw enough to hand him a game in the seniors that very day where he want on to kick another six goals.
Eastern Swans reserve grade coach Kane Evans said Barba kicked seven goals despite the Magpies putting three defenders on him.
Ben Barba made his senior Aussie rules debut for Eastern Swans at the weekend. He kicked seven goals in Reserve Grade and backed it up with six more majors in A-Grade. Photo: Callum DickSource:News Regional Media
Senior Swans coach Graham Adams said Barba could read the play better than most on the ground, despite not having played the sport for 20 years.
“I just think he knows where to run and reads the play so well. That’s his main attribute,” Adams said.
“As far as understanding the game is concerned, he still has a long way to go. But his ability to find space … he’s very good.”
It is a small step for Barba as he continues to try to get his life back in order.
He told The Courier-Mail last month he had “lost everything” as a result of his mistakes off the field.
Barba was in February charged with assault after allegedly punching the brother of his wife Ainslie Currie in the face.
Ainslie Curry and Ben Barba pose on the red carpet as they arrive for the 2012 NRL Dally M Awards.Source:Getty Images
It came after he was sacked by the Cowboys in February, 2019 without playing a game over allegations he was violent towards his partner Currie in an Australia Day incident.
Ms Currie did not press charges.
The NRL gave the father of four a lifetime ban after viewing CCTV footage of the incident outside the casino.
Police allege Barba threw rocks at Currie, who is the mother of their four children.
The incident resulted in the Cowboys ripping up Barba’s contract, reportedly worth $300,000 for the 2019 season. The NRL then deregistered him in a move that prohibited any rival clubs from trying to sign the speedster.
“I lost my head and made a mistake that cost me everything and brought me home to Mackay,” Barba said recently.
“I did things that weren’t right and stuff that I’m not very proud of that cost me my career. At the end of the day it’s no one’s fault but mine.”
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