Another week, another drugs scandal in Southern Hemisphere rugby. Or more accurately another four scandals.
On Monday, it was announced that New Zealand rugby league captain Jesse Bromwich and international teammate Kevin Proctor would not be selected for the 2017 Rugby League World Cup having breached the team’s code of conduct following allegations that both took cocaine during a night out following last week’s defeat during the final ANZAC test at the hands of Australia’s Kangaroos.
Together with the punishment handed out by New Zealand Rugby League (“NZRL”) both players’ clubs also announced internal disciplinary action. Bromwich has been suspended by his club, the Melbourne Storm, for two matches and ordered to attend counselling and treatment courses. In the meantime Proctor has stepped down as co-captain of his club the Gold Coast Titans and from playing duties whilst it investigates the allegations.
The stances taken by the player’s club and country have been markedly different. Whilst the NZRL was quick to make clear that the behaviour alleged to have taken place was unacceptable and placed their international careers on indefinite hold, the players’ clubs have been less damning. Indeed the Titans have gone so far as to say that due to the “high level of stress and anxiety about the consequence of [Proctor’s] actions, we are of course providing him with the best possible welfare and support to ensure his general well-being is the overriding priority.”
Whilst some may say such an approach is commendable, especially during mental health awareness week, should clubs stand by employees who find themselves in these sorts of situations?
One difficulty may be the fact that the issue of cocaine and recreational drug use would appear to becoming a serious issue within the NRL. Not only has it been forced to introduce a specific rule to tackle the issue, the Illicit and Hazardous Drugs Policy, but this approach appears not to be working.
Together with Bromwich and Proctor, recent players to test the rule include Ben Barba (twice) and Sydney Roosters star Shaun Kenny-Dowall who was arrested for drug possession outside a Sydney nightclub on Friday night. Despite his arrest Kenny-Dowall has strenuously denied taking the drug and, through his lawyers, has offered to undertake drug tests to prove so.
Another recent high profile casualty was former Olympic basketball player, and Cronulla Sharks Chairman, Damian Keogh who was also arrested last Friday for being in possession of an illegal substance.
With the issue one seemingly pervading all levels of the game the public will no doubt be watching with some anticipation how the NRL reacts to the latest incidents and whether it will throw the book at those in the spotlight.
SportsShorts has, in the past, covered similar issues affecting the integrity of the game of rugby and hopes that the relevant governing bodies will be able to prevent any further damage to the rich history and heritage of both codes of the game down under.