NRL TO REVEAL SECRET DRUG TEST RESULTS
Move to make players’ illicit drug records available ‘insurance’ for clubs
THE NRL wants to make secret records of illicit drug use available to protect clubs from signing players who have already received a first strike.
The bold proposal, which has the backing of rugby league’s most experienced administrators, is set to be discussed during a meeting of the NRL and all 16 club delegates on Wednesday, with the aim to have it included in next year’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Under the current illicit drugs policy included in the CBA, a first strike for prohibited drug use is a tightly guarded secret shared only by the player, his club CEO and the club’s welfare manager.
But under a new policy, which NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg intends to discuss with the clubs, any team seeking to sign a rival player would be granted access to their illicit drugs history.
As it stands, there are 204 players who are still without a contract for 2018, with rival clubs in the dark as to whether they’re about to sign a player who has already been hit with a first strike.
CEOs argue that access to the intelligence would be no different to a homebuyer ordering a pest inspection before purchasing a property.
“And it’s the same really as what we do now with any player we’re trying to sign, by getting an injury report of that player,’’ longstanding Canberra chief Don Furner said.
“As a club, under the current policy, you’re not only at risk of losing that player from a football point of view you’ve signed for 12 weeks if he is dealt with a second strike out, but it’s the damage it could do to your brand and your club.
“You could lose a major sponsor because of it.
“If the NRL is going to push for that in the CBA, I think they’d be in a strong position.’’
Gold Coast CEO Graham Annesley boasts almost 40 years’ experience as an administrator. He allayed any fears players may have that they won’t be signed by a rival club because they have a known first drugs strike against their name.
“Anything we can do to try and get on the front foot in terms of assisting players with rehabilitation and prevention has got to be a positive for the game,’’ Annesley said.
“Clearly, a first strike, if you’re buying a player under the current rules, the purchasing club is not notified of.
“And if there was notification it would at least give the welfare and medical staff of the purchasing club the opportunity to work with the player, to try and prevent any further issues in that area. I would only see that as a positive.’’
Asked if he felt the Rugby League Players’ Association would consider knowledge of a player’s drug history as a restraint of trade, Annesley said: “The only thing you can’t have
is an unreasonable restraint of trade and I don’t think this is unreasonable.
“It’s actually in the player’s best interests. It’s about trying to prevent a player from potentially ruining his career. I would’ve thought the RLPA would be all in favour of that.’’
Parramatta CEO Bernie Gurr began his career in charge of the Roosters in 1994 and supported the view that insight into a player’s history of illicit drug use didn’t necessarily mean they would be seen as damaged goods. He also refuted a predictable response from the RLPA that the information would be made public.
“Let’s say a player did have a strike two years ago and it was confidential, as it is now,’’ Gurr said. “If they’ve not had any problems for two years then that adds a layer of comfort that hopefully that player has learnt his lesson.
“Everyone makes mistakes, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to be a pattern. And so if they’ve shown an ability not to reoffend, they will probably move forward with that player. We’re only talking abut the players who have made an error once.
“I don’t think sharing that intelligence is a bad thing. The ones that are getting that information are the CEOs and the coaches of the clubs who would potentially be buying the player.
“They’re not going to start running out and ringing the media. Most of us are responsible enough to say this is part of an agreed process for the good of the game.’’
The proposal isn’t the only first, with Greenberg managing to bring all 32 chairs and CEOs together for an update on the current CBA negotiations and next year’s salary cap.