Life after football and out of the limelight can be tough for sports stars, as disgraced rugby league star Ben Barba is currently discovering.
Barba, 29, recently had his NRL contract torn up after allegedly assaulting his partner outside a casino over the Australia Day long weekend; the latest in a long sequence of off-field incidents that marred his career.
The one-time Dally M medalist for player of the season has been forced to take a new job as a metal worker, earning $20-an-hour in a north Queensland factory.
But Barba isn’t the only footballer to take up a new and less glamorous career – with plenty of NRL and AFL stars choosing life in the everyday world while a handful stay in the game via media or coaching.
Footy bad boy Ben Barba (pictured) is working at a metal workshop in Queensland after his NRL contract was torn up following the alleged assault of his partner Ainslie Currie
JOBE WATSON – CAFE OWNER/BARRISTA
At the peak of his career, Jobe Watson earned the crown as the best player in the AFL as the 2012 Bronwlow Medalist.
But life changed dramatically in the years that followed due to the doping scandal that engulfed his club, Essendon.
Watson, along with 34 teammates, spent the entire 2016 season on the sidelines and during that time moved to New York where he opened a coffee shop.
He returned to play 20 games in 2017 but retired at the end of the season and splits his time between Melbourne and New York.
AFL star Jobe Watson (pictured) opened a cafe in New York during his year away from football in 2016
Watson was forced to miss the entirety of the 2016 AFL season because he and 34 of his Essendon teammates were suspended over the doping scandal
KANE CORNES – FIREMAN
After a successful career with Port Adelaide, Kane Cornes stunned the football world when he retired mid-season in 2015 to become a firefighter.
Cornes had long eyed off a job in the brigade when his footy career was done.
And so when a vacancy popped up in the middle of the year he grabbed it with both hands.
But less than six months into his career Cornes hung up his helmet to take up a series of roles in the media, where his plain-spoken style has ruffled some feathers.
After a successful career with Port Adelaide, Kane Cornes (left, with Shane Crawford) stunned the football world when he retired mid-season in 2015 to become a firefighter
But less than a year into his new job Cornes (back, with his family) quit, taking up several new roles as a media commentator
JOHN BARNES – GARBAGE COLLECTOR
AFL premiership ruckman John Barnes was a much sought-after assistant coach when he called time on his career at the end of 2001.
But after working with several clubs in a number of years, the former Geelong and Essendon star’s off-field life took a very different turn when he became a garbage collector.
‘My next-door neighbour had a labour hire business. I got up one morning and I said: “Ronnie, my kids are about to finish school, I need to show them I work and have a good work ethic”,’ Barnes told the Herald Sun in 2015.
‘The next day he rang me up and said: “You’re starting at 4am, running behind a rear loader” and I was like, “Oh”.
‘I couldn’t see myself doing it, but now I am and I can’t see myself doing anything else.’
He was following in the footsteps of his former Geelong teammate and Brownlow Medalist Paul Couch, who also worked as a garbo.
John Barnes (left, with his wife Rowena) was a highly sought after ruck coach when he retired in 2001, but eventually took up a new career as a garbage collector
‘I couldn’t see myself doing it, but now I am and I can’t see myself doing anything else,’ Barnes said of his career
BEN KENNEDY – MEXICAN RESTAURANT OWNER
Rugby league enforcer Ben Kennedy was no stranger to controversy throughout his decade long career.
But since hanging up the boots he has taken on a completely different role – running his own Guzman Y Gomez franchise in Newcastle.
Despite his notoriety as a NSW Origin and Kangaroos star, Kennedy said he didn’t see himself as above getting behind the counter.
‘It’s awesome. I don’t even consider it work, really,’ Kennedy told The Daily Telegraph in 2013.
‘I love it… I’ll chat to the customers or get behind the counter and serve.’
Former NRL enforcer Ben Kennedy opened a Guzman Y Gomez franchise in Newcastle after he retired from the league, even working shifts on the front counter (He is pictured right, with Guzman Y Gomez founder Steven Marks)
Before running his own fast food franchise Kennedy (pictured) was an enforcer for NSW during State of Origin and also for Australia
JOHN HOPOATE – NIGHTCLUB BOUNCER
John Hopoate made plenty of headlines throughout his rugby league career, but one infamous incident in 2005 brought his playing days to an instant end.
Having had his Manly Sea Eagles contract torn up after a highly-publicised incident when he poked his finger up the backside of opposing players during a match, Hopoate turned his attention to a career in the ring as a boxer.
During that time he also worked as a nightclub bouncer, standing at the door to some of the popular clubs of Sydney’s Kings Cross.
Hopoate continued to attract attention off the field and in 2010 was charged over an altercation with a patron.
A court heard that Hopoate had been struck in the head with a belt buckle, but in his attempts at retaliation ‘went too far’ by punching the man twice.
The rugby league bad boy pleaded guilty to actual bodily harm and was fined $1000.
Hopoate’s TKO defeat at the hands of another former NRL star in Paul Gallen earlier this month may have ended Hopoate’s boxing ambitions.
After the infamous incident that ended his rugby league career, John Hopoate (left) began life as a professional boxer, but on the side worked as a nightclub bouncer in Sydney’s Kings Cross
Hopoate continued to make headlines off the field, including after a 2010 altercation outside a nightclub where he pleaded guilty to causing actual bodily harm of a patron
KEVIN GORDON – WANNABE HOLLYWOOD ACTOR
Capturing the buzz of the crowd as a flying winger on the field just wasn’t enough for Kevin Gordon.
The former Gold Coast Titans star – who has the third most tries in the club’s history – wanted even more, and so quit unexpectedly at age 25.
Gordon moved to New York where he studied acting, hoping to one day be a regular among the bright lights and famous faces of Hollywood.
In an interview with the Gold Coast Bulletin last year said that while his dream as a kid was to play in the NRL, ‘he felt like a square peg in a round hole’ in the league.
‘I had a few epiphanies when I was 25 and I thought back to the days of when I was a younger kid and thought, is this what I really want to do?’ Gordon said.
Gold Coast Titans winger Kevin Gordon (pictured) quit the NRL at the age of just 25 and moved to New York where he studied acting, with a dream of one day becoming a Hollywood star
‘When I retired I felt like I was a bird leaving the cage, just flapping my wings and going to the sky because the sky was the limit,’ Gordon (pictured holding the gun) said
‘I thought about it for six months and thought, I really like music and acting and doing weird stuff. So I thought I’d take the risk, jump off the ledge and grow wings on the way down.
‘When I retired I felt like I was a bird leaving the cage, just flapping my wings and going to the sky because the sky was the limit.’
BEN BARBA – METAL WORKER
The former Dally M player of the year and one-time face of the game in Australia is now working at a local business in his hometown of Mackay, Queensland.
Barba, 29, was sacked by the North Queensland Cowboys following an alleged attack on his girlfriend Ainslie Currie at the Townsville Casino on Australia Day.
But Daily Mail Australia revealed this week that Barba has taken up a job working with his cousin at a metal workshop.
The disgraced NRL star was once earning $500,000-a-year, but since having his contract torn up has had to trade his football boots for steel caps and khaki pants
The father-of-four is back living in his parents’ housing commission home, making up to $39,000-a-year making aluminium garage roller doors.
‘He’s out there on the floor working under his cousin’s supervision,’ the workshop’s boss said this week.
‘He’s good and he’s going fine.’
Regardless, it’s a far cry from the days of making $500,000-a-year and winning the NRL’s Dally M medal as the best player in the competition.