'I'm glad I punched him': fallen NRL star's drunk admission
UPDATE 4.20PM:QUEENSLAND Maroons captain and former Mackay son Daly Cherry-Evans has vouched for his mate of 20 years Ben Barba in a character reference tendered as part of a drunken assault case.
But for now the fallen NRL star has a nervous overnight wait after he was remanded in custody and will learn the outcome of his latest drunken episode tomorrow morning - a result that could determine his prospective return to professional rugby league.
Mackay Magistrates Court heard Barba punched his brother-in-law Adrian Currie once in the head after the pair had words following an argument between Barba and his wife at McGuires pub on February 22 this year.
Soon after police were called to another disturbance between Barba and his wife just down the road where he told officers, "I punched the c***sucker in the face because he doesn't like me and he called me a woman basher, I'm glad I punched him."
Today Barba pleaded guilty to assault occasioning bodily harm and breaching bail, as well as failing to complete a community service order.
The order is linked to public nuisance charges over an incident with his wife Ainsley Currie, which resulted in his $400,000-plus a year Cowboys contract being torn up.
However the court heard Barba had a second chance to play professional rugby league. He has been offered a contract with the Valencia Huracanes in Spain, but it could hinge on whether or not convictions are recorded for his latest bad behaviour.
Barba was remanded in custody overnight so Magistrate James Morton could consider the most appropriate penalty.
"After seeing him remanded in custody overnight I'm not confident of anything however a fair and just result would see him be fined and a conviction not recorded," Barba's Gold Coast-based solicitor Campbell MacCallum said outside court.
"He's very surprised but he doesn't hold any grudges, he knows it's his behaviour that has put himself in this position.
"So he certainly not complaining, he's not whinging, he's being a man about it."
Mr MacCallum pushed for a $1500 fine, $1000 compensation and no convictions recorded.
However prosecutor Chelsea Pearson said Barba's history showed violence was not out of character and that specific and general deterrence was needed - she argued for a wholly suspended jail term or immediate parole.
"At the time these offences occurred (Barba) was on a community service order," Ms Pearson said.
The Dally M medallist had to complete 150 hours of community service for a violent incident against the mother of his children at The Ville Resort- Casino over the Australia Day weekend last year.
The court heard the order expired on May 27 this year and despite having "plenty of opportunity to complete his hours" still had 28.75 hours outstanding.
Mr MacCallum said his client had given up work for two weeks "much to the detriment of his family" to complete the community service at a nursing home before COVID-19 hit.
Because he was unable to complete more during the lockdown, he was tasked to make "fancy" bracelets in lieu, "which he failed to do".
"Unfortunately, his bracelet making skills don't match his rugby ability," Mr MacCallum said, adding Barba was told to make 60 bracelets and he made 41 in the time.
"And that was a genuine effort … it took him a fair while to make each bracelet.
"Quite some humbling experience (for) a person who has a background and identity and also fame that he used to enjoy."
Mr MacCallum said it would be "grossly unjust" to resentence Barba because he failed to complete the community service hours and added the domestic issues with his wife had been resolved.
He said his client "begs … for the leniency of the court" in not recording a conviction to allow him to possibly "salvage" his football career.
"What he wants to do is get himself away from Mackay," Mr MacCallum said
"He wants to immediately sign with this club in Spain.
"It's a competition that is starting up next year."
The court heard Barba would be involved in overlooking the training, as well as playing and coaching the underage players.
The court heard there was a clause in Barba's contract with the Valencia Huracanes stating there may be scope to enter back into the NRL or Super League.
"That is due to discussions that his manager has had various clubs that are still waiting to see the outcome of today's proceedings," Mr MacCallum said.
"He has significant insight into his offending behaviour."
A number of high profile current and former NRL players - including Cherry-Evans, Nate Myles, Valentine Holmes and Ashley Harrison - threw their support behind Barba, writing character references that were tendered in court.
Mr MacCallum said each reference highlighted Barba's difficult upbringing including experiencing significant violence growing up.
"A common theme also throughout these references is … he's a person who although can be quite flamboyant and (a) crowd favourite while playing rugby league … becomes very shy, introverted and struggled with the pressure of dealing with that fame outside of rugby league," he said, adding his client "may" turn to alcohol.
Current State of Origin Captain Cherry-Evans wrote he had known Barba for about 20 years and considered him a close friend.
"Having a relationship with Ben isn't something he is ashamed off," Mr MacCallum said, highlighting the Manly halfback was mindful of public perception.
"Becoming a professional athlete doesn't automatically give you the ability to deal with your emotions," Cherry-Evans said in his letter.
He also wrote he knew Barba to want to be a better man for his partner, his kids, friend and family and himself.
Valentine Holmes, who is the Cowboys current fullback, wrote Barba had always played the game fairly to the best of his ability and described him "as a gentleman on the field".
"Your honour, you're not dealing with a man who takes advantage of his fame and flamboyantly runs around town causing trouble to others," Mr MacCallum said.
"Well that's what we've got here isn't it?" Magistrate James Morton asked.
"This is a licensed premises where they sell alcohol and he's leaned over and punched (him) for calling him a woman basher … whether or not he's a c***sucker."
The case has been adjourned until tomorrow morning.
UPDATE: BEN Barba has been remanded in custody overnight.
Today the former NRL star begged for leniency from Mackay Magistrates Court over attacking a family member after it was revealed an offer to play professional rugby league in Spain was on the table.
Barba punched Adrian Currie in the head once after his brother-in-law called him a "woman basher" following an argument with his wife.
The court heard the assault occurred on February 22 this year McGuires pub and was captured on CCTV.
Prosecutor Chelsea Pearson pushed to play the footage after describing the attack but Magistrate James Morton dismissed the attempt saying "I don't think I need to (see it)".
The court heard Barba had received an offer from the Valencia Huracanes to join the Spanish rugby league team.
The father of four pleaded guilty to three charges: assault occasioning bodily harm, breaching bail and breaching a community service order.
Barba's solicitor Campbell MacCallum pushed for a fine and compensation while Ms Pearson argued for jail that was wholly suspended or with immediate parole.
Mr Morton said he wanted to consider the case overnight and would hand down his penalty tomorrow morning.
He revoked Barba's bail and remanded him in custody.
More to come.
INITIAL: FORMER NRL star Ben Barba has arrived at Mackay Magistrates Court where it is expected he will plead guilty to three charges.
The Dally M winner is charged with assault occasioning bodily harm over an alleged incident involving his brother in law at McGuires pub on February 22 this year.
He is also charged with breaching his bail on July 18 by being within the Mackay Safe Night Precinct.
It is also alleged he breached a community service order handed down last year.
The case is expected to be finalised later this morning.
*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.