Ben Barba re-signs with Cronulla but return could be delayed for months

Ben Barba has signed a one-year NRL deal to return to Cronulla, however he may not be able to begin training with the defending NRL premiers for up to four months.

The Sharks confirmed on Wednesday they had signed their premiership-winning fullback, just over two months after they released him following his second positive test for illicit drugs within a year.

However his contract will have to be registered by the NRL, who will need to be convinced Barba has undergone enough steps to be rehabilitated to return to the game after being handed a 12-game ban at the end of last season that will rule him out until June.

“[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.”

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.\

Regardless of the outcome of the contract registration, it is understood he may be forced to wait until just before his anticipated June return date before he can train with the Cronulla again.

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

Last year’s positive test was the latest part of a drama to engulf the 2012 Dally M medallist, as his rollercoaster NRL ride has continued since he shot onto the scene as an exciting prospect with Canterbury in 2008.

He took the Bulldogs to the 2012 grand final on the back of 22 tries in 27 matches, but was released at the end of the following year to Brisbane amidst reports of problems with his partner.\

He returned to Sydney with Cronulla in 2015, and last year starred by scoring 15 tries and setting up another 18 en route to the club’s maiden premiership. However his future was again thrown in jeopardy after he tested positive to cocaine during the grand final celebrations.

It is not expected Barba will be able to return for the Sharks until their round-14 clash with Melbourne at home, on 8 June.