As more players looked set to be embroiled in a cocaine scandal, NRL boss Dave Smith has claimed rugby league does not have a drug problem.
The Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) has predicted further arrests in the coming days as part of their investigation into the state’s cocaine trafficking syndicate that has already claimed players in two codes.
Queensland Reds’ code hopper Karmichael Hunt and five Gold Coast Titans NRL players have already been embroiled in the scandal.
And reports on Tuesday claimed a high profile retired player may be among the next named.
“Based on current information, the CCC expects any further arrests of current or former sportspeople will occur by the end of this week or early next week,” the CCC statement said.
Titans players Greg Bird, Dave Taylor, Beau Falloon, Jamie Dowling and Kalifa Faifai Loa have been issued with court notices to face drug supply charges and are due to appear in court over the next fortnight.
They have been stood down pending their court appearances.
After stressing that the cocaine scandal was unrelated to the NRL taking control of the battling Titans on Tuesday, Smith said drugs were not a rugby league issue.
“This is a society-wide problem, this is not about sports or players,” he said.
“One thousand players pull on an NRL jersey.
“We’re talking about a handful of players that have been charged so no it’s not a problem.”
Smith was unsure how long the Titans players would be stood down for after it emerged it could take 12-18 months for their cases to be finalised.
Lawyer Campbell MacCallum said on Tuesday that his clients – Bird, Taylor, Faifai Loa and Dowling – intended to deny the pending charges when they first face court in early March and he was confident they would ultimately be cleared.
He described as “premature” a report on Tuesday that the players may consider suing the NRL club if they weren’t allowed to play in the 2015 season.
“As the facts emerge we’ll decide what the appropriate course of action is,” Smith said.
“At this point in time the right thing to do due to the seriousness of the charges is stand the players down and I fully support that board’s decision.”
Smith said he was aware that the CCC may announce more arrests in the coming days but was “not privy to their investigation”.
Meanwhile, MacCallum was concerned about the possibility the players could be sidelined for a much longer period.
“The issue arises when there’s been some stories about the board perhaps standing players down indefinitely or until the court proceedings have been finalised,” he told Fox Sports.
But he added: “I can say the players have instructed they are loyal to the club – they’re not talking about suing anyone.”
MacCallum also dismissed speculation about a drug ring at the Titans.
Dowling and teammate Beau Falloon received notices to appear in court on March 5 – two days before the Titans’ opening match of the NRL season against the Wests Tigers.
Bird, Taylor and Faifai Loa are due to face court on March 9.
Bird and Taylor were seen entering Southport police station with their lawyer on Tuesday.Read more