Ben Barba's planned comeback to Australian rugby league is in tatters.
The controversial playmaker, sacked by North Queensland hours after he was touted for an NRL redemption, has become yet another ugly blotch on the NRL's ongoing battle with off-field misbehaviour.
Barba had his Cowboys contract torn up on Friday night in relation to an incident at a Townsville casino, the same day the 29-year-old was officially unveiled as fullback for the Indigenous All Stars.
The Courier Mail later reported Barba allegedly "attacked his partner and mother of their four daughters, Ainslie Currie".
The All Stars match was Barba's first opportunity to play in Australia since he was banned for his second illicit drug strike following Cronulla's maiden grand final win in 2016.
Barba initially spent his NRL exile in French rugby before joining St Helens in the Super League. He was considered a key Cowboys recruit for 2019 after signing a one-year deal.
The Cowboys sacked Barba after the NRL was made aware of the incident, with Nine news reporting Queensland police are also involved in the investigation.
Channel Nine's Danny Weidler revealed CCTV cameras had recorded the incident.
Veteran rugby league journalist Phil Rothfield said 29-year-old Barba should be forever blacklisted from rugby league after his latest incident, declaring the once explosive back will only be remembered for his "disgraceful" behaviour.
"The NRL has no choice but to ban Ben Barba for life. Not for 12 months, not for two years. Life," Rothfield wrote in a Friday night column for The Daily Telegraph.
"This is his second domestic violence incident, the previous at the Canterbury Bulldogs in 2013, when photos emerged of his partner Ainslie Currie with a bloodied face."
Rothfield said Barba, who also served a 12-week ban from the Cronulla Sharks for cocaine, should be made an example of after NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said the competition would be taking a harder stance on domestic violence.
Greenberg recently declared the NRL would be coming down hard on any player "convicted of criminal offences that have violence against women".
"So here is their opportunity to back up those words and nothing but a life ban will be satisfactory," Rothfield continued. "The 29-year-old can never again be allowed to lace on a football boot."
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Earlier on Friday, former State of Origin coach Laurie Daley said he was excited about Barba's return in the All Stars match and urged him to make the most of his career lifeline.
"It's a big game for a lot of people and also Benny because he can come back and put the stuff that happened to him behind him and pull on the shirt and represent his family and his culture.
"And show that if you do make a mistake, there's always a chance to bounce back."
The former Dally M winner was to feature in an exciting backline with Latrell Mitchell — who has chosen to represent his culture over the Sydney Roosters' World Club Challenge tilt — Blake Ferguson, James Roberts and Josh Addo-Carr.
Mitchell was given the blessing of club bosses to turn out for the Indigenous All Stars and miss the Roosters' attempt to be crowned world champions two days later against Wigan.
"It was tough for Latrell," Daley said. "He realises the Roosters gave him a good opportunity, won a premiership with them last year and he would have loved to have been a part of the World Club Challenge. But he realises his culture is special to him."
The All Stars concept, absent from the 2018 calendar, has been revamped with the Maori All Stars replacing the World All Stars.
And Daley said he hoped the Maori side — featuring Kalyn Ponga in his first top-level appearance in the No 6 jumper — would help revitalise the pre-season fixture.
"The Indigenous All Stars have worked a lot in the community — they embraced the concept," Daley said.
"The World All Stars really had nothing to play for. The Maori, with their culture, have plenty to play for. It'll be an exciting contest."