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No Barba for Bulldogs in Storm NRL clash

Canterbury have put to rest Melbourne's suspicions that troubled superstar Ben Barba could play in Thursday night's NRL grand final rematch.
No Barba for Bulldogs in Storm NRL clash
by AAP

By Melissa Woods

MELBOURNE, March 20 AAP - Canterbury have put to rest Melbourne's suspicions that troubled superstar Ben Barba could play in Thursday night's NRL grand final rematch.

As the Bulldogs boarded their Melbourne-bound plane in Sydney ahead of their AAMI Park clash, there was no sign of Barba, who only returned to training this week after being sidelined by the club while he received counselling for personal issues.

Storm skipper Cameron Smith had declared his side would prepare as if the brilliant fullback was playing, regardless of Bulldogs coach Des Hasler's proclamation he wasn't.

Canterbury captain Michael Ennis told reporters at the airport that, while Barba was physically in the right shape to play, he wasn't ready.

"Ben had a wonderful pre-season with us," said Ennis.

"Physically, he met all of the demands and worked extremely hard on his game so, physically, he's in a really good place.

"It's just the off-field stuff he needs to manage.

"When the club and people externally feel like it's right for him to come back on the field, then he will be back in the team."

Ennis said he couldn't predict when that would be.

The skipper said Barba had made a lot of progress and his teammates were buoyed by his presence at training.

He said Barba was "happy" to be back.

"It's great to see him back around the place.

"I'm glad he's back on track.

"He enjoys being back in the environment he's so familiar with and running around with the ball in hand."




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