Tony Durkin: Cronulla saga not good look for NRL

A MATE chipped me at golf this week and asked why I hadn't commented on the outcome of the Sharks supplements issue.

And he had every reason to question me.

While the outcome of the investigation may not have validated claims of the "Blackest day in Australian sport", it has propagated the biggest story in rugby league for the past 18 months.

Unquestionably, this entire episode has been a black mark against the game.

But the reason I have not written anything is because, like many others, I remain ambivalent.

And until the evidence against the players is produced by ASADA, most of us will stay in the dark as much of the information we receive is hearsay.

In a nutshell, the 17 players at Cronulla who used peptides during the 2011 pre-season claim they did so not fully cognisant of the fact that what they were taking would have the same effect as an anabolic steroid and a human-growth hormone.

Many, including skipper Paul Gallen, still attest they have never been administered an illegal substance, even though they ultimately pleaded guilty.

But surely the form of Gallen, particularly in 2011, must raise some questions.

He has long been a very good player, but that season he was phenomenal.

Who could forget his 80-minute display in the front row for the Blues in Origin II?

While that may be circumstantial to the issue, so too is the amazing run of 216 consecutive NRL games by another prop, Luke Douglas, who was also caught up in the supplements scandal.

The irony is that the Douglas journey came to an end when he also accepted what many consider a 'soft' one-year ban, which was backdated and effectively cost him just three games.

From the outside looking in, it appears all parties involved in this case threw their hands in the air at the end, took a deep breath and said "let this be over".

That alliance seemingly included ASADA, the NRL and the players.

The mystifying question is why NRL players - tested so regularly and so randomly - would risk using these supplements without being assured by a trusted staff member that they were not performance-enhancing.

If they weren't duped, they rolled a very risky dice.

Yes, yes, yes

GOOD on the Sea Eagles for calling Anthony Watmough's bluff by informing him he can negotiate with other clubs. I doubt any will pay him the $970,000 his back-ended deal for 2015 is worth.

No, no no

IT MAY help sales, but the criticism of Arthur Beetson by John Sattler in his new book won't win him many friends. Rugby league's first indigenous Test captain, big Artie will always be an unqualified icon of the game.


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