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.

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