Tuesday 20 March 2018 / 10:50 AM


NRL should sidestep drug hysteria

First of all, let’s clarify that what Bromwich and Proctor did – especially after a Test match and in an uncontrolled environment – was irresponsible, stupid and wrong. Ditto Shaun Kenny-Dowall. Any player should know better given the rules in place and the potential consequences, both legally and through sanctions from the NRL and their clubs.

But the idea that the players in question, who are first-time offenders, should be hit with long bans, or even have their contracts torn up, is beyond ludicrous.

The two-match suspension Melbourne handed Bromwich is about right. Bromwich and Proctor have also lost cherished leadership roles, which is fair enough too. Kiwis coach David Kidwell – supported by the NZRL- announced today that both players will not be considered for the World Cup. A harsh stance that was no doubt influenced by the absurd frenzy that has followed the weekend’s off-field bombshells.

Kenny-Dowall is in hotter water because he was arrested for possession, and can probably expect the same eight-week ban Corey Norman was slapped with last year; he was stood down indefinitely by the Roosters today.

The veteran is off-contract, too, which means he has likely cost himself a stack of money when he comes to negotiate his next NRL deal, and he may even have to look to Super League for a suitor, so he will no doubt pay a hefty price.

However, the notion that a small percentage of players taking a small amount of cocaine is worse for rugby league and the players themselves than the widespread abuse of alcohol, gambling addiction, or domestic violence is way off base.

The fact that Josh Papalii can get a mere one-game ban and miss a Test for drink-driving – a potentially deadly act, and one that is a far greater scourge than young people taking small amounts of drugs on occasion – and it is already forgotten is a disgrace.

Kenny Edwards got a six-game ban for a domestic violence-related conviction, yet many people – including some respected pundits – are calling for Bromwich and co. to be rubbed out for far longer.

Fix up this discrepancy before beginning to talk about more severe bans for illicit substance offences.

Over in New Zealand, the almost sympathetic reaction to All Blacks legend Dan Carter’s drink-driving offence in France compared to the public lynching of his former teammate Ali Williams – who is five years retired – for buying cocaine for personal use in the same country, was exasperating for anyone with an unprejudiced grasp of the ramifications of both acts.

Todd Greenberg’s suggestion that rugby league is a reflection on society may seem like a soft stance, but he’s absolutely right. It’s a microcosm of the 18 to 35-year-old demographic’s attitude towards recreational drug use, in the same way that the extreme overreaction to these incidents is a microcosm of the moral majority’s unbalanced view of prohibition.

Drugs, including cocaine, can have a terrible impact, but no greater the alcohol, tobacco, prescription medication, sugar, sex etc etc when abused. Everyone is entitled to their opinions on drug use, particularly those that have been personally affected. But the outcry over what’s happened over the past few days – in comparison to the bulk of off-field indiscretions that hurt the game – is arguably down to a lack of knowledge and draconian laws.

Kudos in advance to the NRL for not letting the unenlightened moral majority juggernaut bully them into ruining careers for minor infractions.

Rep round impressions

KANGAROOS: Clinical, polished, dominant, ruthless. Mal Meninga is well on his way to becoming Australia’s greatest-ever Test coach, on top of his status as Queensland’s unrivalled mentor. His contentious loyalty slant came up trumps and the green-and-golds will approach the World Cup as unbackable favourites.

KIWIS: They were everything the Roos weren’t. Disjointed, impatient, sloppy, out-enthused. A bitterly disappointing outcome for one of the best Kiwis line-ups ever assembled. David Kidwell is quite rightly having his position as coach questioned, but the NZRL is unlikely to have the bottle to replace him less than six months out from a World Cup.

JILLAROOS: A great win to reclaim supremacy in women’s rugby league. The Jillaroos absorbed a barrage of punishment for 80 minutes from the physical Kiwi Ferns, but their fitness and toughness told in the end. Took their opportunities to build a lead and then defended like their lives depended on it to keep the visitors scoreless in the second half. Isabelle Kelly, Zahara Temara, Ruan Sims and Simiana Taufa-Kautai were exceptional.

KIWI FERNS: Lost few admirers for their gallant effort, hanging in bravely after some crucial errors and the bounce of the ball went against them in the first half. Their brutal defence was food for the soul of any rugby league fan, while fullback and captain Sarina Fiso was absolutely phenomenal as she tried to inspire her side in the second half, and forwards Bunty Kuruwaka-Crowe and Teuila Fotu-Moala never stopped working.

JUNIOR KANGAROOS: Thoroughly outclassed their inferior opposition, with the likes of Brodie Croft, Corey Allan, Jai Field and Sam Stone sure to press for senior representative honours before too long.

JUNIOR KIWIS: A disturbingly poor performance. The Junior Kiwis traditionally dominated their Australian counterparts until a couple of years ago, and along with the decline of the Warriors’ NYC team, there’s some worrying signs for New Zealand rugby league at that level.

PNG KUMULS: Impressive performance from the Pacific side with the least NRL players. Well-organised and typically physical, they didn’t panic when the Cooks came back at them and ultimately finished comfortable winners. Opponents will take them lightly at their peril when the World Cup rolls around.

COOK ISLANDS: A great effort by a proud and gritty team, with youngsters Esan Marsters and recent Warriors debutant Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad impressing in particular. Held the Kumuls to 12-all at halftime and never threw in the towel.

MATE MA’A TONGA: Warm favourites despite Andrew Fifita’s controversial selection for Australia, Tonga showed tremendous poise to grab a late winner after an absorbing duel with Fiji. Leilani Latu’s double – including the decisive 78th-minute try – proved he is destined for (without wishing to downplay the prestige attached with playing for Tonga) higher honours.

FIJI BATIS: Fiji will be gunning for three straight World Cup semi-final appearances this year, and on the strength of their performance against Tonga – plus the possible addition of some superstar talent – they’ll be hard to deny. Unlucky not to win.

ENGLAND: The big winners of rep weekend. Many were tipping Samoa to roll Wayne Bennett’s side, but they were dominant despite a short turnaround including inter-hemisphere travel. The spine looked slick, the pack was tough, and they probably deserve to be second favourites behind Australia at the World Cup based on what we saw over the weekend.

TOA SAMOA: Second only to the Kiwis as the big disappointment of the weekend. Picked a crack squad but never looked like challenging the focussed Poms. Anthony Milford and Joey Leilua scored Samoa’s tries, but neither did much to press their claims for the Origin spots that will potentially be vacated by injuries to Thurston and Dugan.

CITY ORIGIN: The city slickers will go down as the last-ever winners of the ailing City-Country match, but ironically the big story was the players that pushed their NSW barrow – despite the widely-held belief that the contest had lost its relevance as an Origin trial. James Tamou, Tyrone Peachey, Nathan Ross and Chad Townsend certainly gave Laurie Daley and Peter Sterling food for thought.

COUNTRY ORIGIN: The sentimental favourites couldn’t mark the occasion with a win, but they weren’t disgraced in front of a spirited Mudgee crowd. Jack de Belin pressed his Blues claims again, while fellow Dragon Tariq Sims was arguably their best, though he remains an Origin long-shot.

Try of the week

There was a dearth of genuinely great tries scored over the weekend, so we’re going for Jillaroos debutant Isabelle Kelly’s barnstorming opener against the Ferns. Taking the ball from a kick-return, Kelly busted a tackle with pure determination, before racing away for a dream four-pointer which set the tone for a spectacular all-round display from the diminutive winger/fullback.

My new favourite player

Cook Islands centre Esan Marsters put his hand up for a Wests Tigers call-up with a powerhouse performance against Papua New Guinea. A backline giant at 110 kilos, the Auckland-born 20-year-old can play in the forwards, mixing great mobility and footwork with a liberal dash of skill. One to watch.

Under-pressure XIII

1 Matt Moylan
2 Ken Maumalo
3 Justin O’Neill
4 Joey Leilua
5 Braidon Burns
6 Mitchell Moses
7 Jaelen Feeney
8 Tom Burgess
9 Michael Lichaa
10 Josh Starling
11 Bodene Thompson
12 Ryan Simpkins
13 Trent Merrin

Form Origin teams

1 Tom Trbojevic
2 Akuila Uate
3 Dylan Walker
4 Michael Jennings
5 Josh Addo-Carr
6 Luke Keary
7 Mitchell Pearce
8 Junior Paulo
9 Jayden Brailey
10 Paul Vaughan
11 Boyd Cordner
12 Wade Graham
13 Jack de Belin

14 Adam Elliott
15 John Asiata
16 Andrew Fifita
17 Matt Prior

1 Billy Slater
2 Valentine Holmes
3 Will Chambers
4 Dane Gagai
5 Darius Boyd
6 Anthony Milford
7 Corey Norman
8 Korbin Sims
9 Cameron Smith
10 Dylan Napa
11 Matt Gillett
12 Felise Kaufusi
13 Josh McGuire

14 Sam Thaiday
15 Coen Hess
16 Ethan Lowe
17 Ashley Taylor

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About the author

Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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