More
than a few National Rugby League players will today be feeling just a little
uneasy with the news that the NRL has decided to adopt a hard line stance when
it comes to using so-called recreational drugs, like cannabis.

Until
now, the NRL ordered players testing positive to cannabis to undertake
counselling sessions managed by their club. And generally they were not named.

No
longer. From this season, players will get an automatic twelve months’
suspension – and be outed. A
second offence will attract an automatic two year ban.

Under
threat of losing Federal Government funding for junior rugby league development
programs, the NRL has fallen into line with the World Anti-Doping Authority
drug policy, as have the AFL and ARU.

I
doubt if recreational drug use is a major problem in first grade rugby league, but
it’s a big problem in society generally and it would be foolish to pretend some
players are not occasional cannabis users.

A
bigger problem for the game, and other football codes, is the abuse of another
recreational, but legal, substance –
booze.

This
week, the NRL is holding a camp for the game’s rookies and there is a welcome
focus in the lectures/discussions on responsible drinking and behavioural
attitudes towards women. Not before time on either count.

The
Broncos, for one, are taking no chances with players behaving badly as a result
of too much strong drink. Strong drink won’t even be allowed in the dressing
rooms after a match. Fruit drinks and fresh fruit will be on offer instead.

How
times change. I can remember the days when, before taking the field, more than
one of the game’s stars had a hot pie, a can of coke, and, believe it or not,
three or four fags.

And
post-match, it was a few more fags, and as much beer as the players could
consume, with the beer being kept nice and cold in the dressing rooms in half
44 gallon drums of iced water.

Peter Fray

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