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Barba, Sharks to wait on NRL registration

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 18/01/2017 Scott Bailey

It took just 71 days after releasing Ben Barba for Cronulla to re-sign him, but the NRL might not allow him to join the team so soon on the training paddock.

The Sharks confirmed on Wednesday they had re-signed their controversial fullback to a new one-year deal, pending the NRL's registration of the contract.

It came just a little over two months after Barba was released following his second positive test to illicit drugs in less than a year - netting him a 12-game suspension he would still have to serve.

But the club believes he is ready to continue his NRL career.

"(Barba) has worked diligently on making his return to the NRL a reality and is continuing his well-being program," the Sharks said in a statement.

"Our club met with Barba and his management to discuss the new contract proposal for consideration by the NRL."

The NRL will still need to be convinced, though.

At the top of its concerns will be whether Barba has undergone enough steps to return to the game after testing positive to cocaine in the midst of grand final celebrations.

Barba headed to Thailand for a four-week stint in a rehabilitation clinic following the ban, but his manager claimed at the time the stay was for an anxiety disorder, and not drug-related.

If his contract is registered, AAP understands he might be forced to wait until just before his anticipated June return date before he can train with Cronulla again, in keeping with the general practice of the NRL.

The 27-year-old would also be on his final drugs warning, with a third breach likely to lead to contract termination under the NRL's illicit drug policy.

Barba recorded his first strike at the end of the 2015 season, but looked a new man when he scored 15 tries and set up another 18 to help the Sharks to last year's premiership.

It was in direct contrast with how he struggled at Canterbury and Brisbane in 2013 and 2014 respectively, as dramas plagued the aftermath of his breakthrough Dally M season of 2012 - when he also helped the Bulldogs to the decider against Melbourne.

Now, perhaps fittingly, the Storm could shape as his first possible opponent when his 12-match ban is lifted - just in time for Cronulla's grand final rematch on June 8 at Shark Park.

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