Cronulla's door remains open for Ben Barba, but the troubled star faces an almighty fight to resurrect his NRL career after fleeing Australia to deal with "massive" personal issues.

Sharks boss Lyall Gorman admitted the club's historic premiership defence was the least of his concerns after agreeing to release Barba from his $800,000-a-season contract following his second positive test to cocaine in less than two years.

In addition to a sizeable fine, Barba will serve a mandatory 12-match suspension if he returns to the NRL.

"But that is not his priority or ours," Gorman said on Tuesday.

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"He has massive issues to confront on a personal basis. He's put his hand up and acknowledged those.

"The highest level of priority for us right today is the welfare of both Ben and his wife and children.

"It's him and his management who have requested the release. He feels he needs to get out of the environment, the professional environment, to fully focus on himself.

"He says very clearly it was almost a monkey off his back to be able to make that decision and go away and probably for the first time for a long time put himself first."

Barba first tested positive to cocaine in February last year before being caught out again four days after Cronulla's grand final breakthrough last month.

The setback is the latest chapter in a turbulent career highlighted by his 2012 Dally M Medal win and premiership success with the Sharks but also featuring forgettable lowlights.

He was suspended by Canterbury in 2013 amid allegations of domestic violence, which both he and wife Ainslie denied, before being shown the door by Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett in 2014.

The 27-year-old father of four young girls appeared to be getting his life back on track after returning to his electrifying best for Cronulla this season.

But not even the close monitoring and nurturing of Gorman and other senior Sharks could prevent Barba's latest slip-up.

"There's no one more disappointed than me," Gorman said.

"I've spent a lot of time with Benny. I'm very close to him. To say that I'm personally distressed about this would be an understatement.

"He's made a poor choice on a poor day. Whether he's got carried away with the celebration, I don't know the exact circumstances of when this occurred."

Gorman, though, said Barba deserved praise - and sympathy - for confronting his demons and defended Cronulla's stance to continue to "fully support" the grand final tryscoring hero during and after his stint in a Thai rehabilitation clinic.

"We care greatly about this young man and his family and if you saw his wife and four kids and you saw the sadness in that family, you'd understand the emotions we have," Gorman said. While offering no promises, Barba hasn't given up hope of a comeback.

"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," he said before leaving for Thailand on Monday night with the Sharks' welfare officer Shane Smith.

"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."

Barba's call for help comes just weeks after the former Indigenous All Star revealed his devastation at his destructive ways during his tumultuous Bulldogs career.

- AAP