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Volume 6 No. 213
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National Rugby League Plans Player Pool To Replace Players Suspended For Doping

The bottom 10 players in each National Rugby League squad "would be made available for rival clubs to approach as replacements for players suspended due to doping violations under a proposal being considered to ensure the game fulfils its television commitments," according to Brad Walter of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. The NRL "has been drawing up a contingency plan to cope with the possibility of players being suspended en masse following an investigation by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority." Officials "have been discussing options to ensure the NRL fulfils its contractual obligations to Channel Nine and Fox Sports to provide eight competitive matches a week since news broke on the eve of the season kick-off that up to 14 Cronulla players face drugs bans." Players "would not be forced to join a rival club, but some may believe they will have better opportunities by doing so." The clubs releasing players "could also benefit as they would free up room under the salary cap to extend the contracts of other players" (SMH, 3/20).

SUPPORT, OPPOSITION: In Sydney, Honeysett & McDonald reported the NRL's "contingency plan to force players to other clubs through an internal draft polarised the game." Wests Tigers players Benji Marshall said: "I wouldn't want any of my teammates to be put through that, put to the sword and (be told) 'we don't want you, you can go play for Cronulla.'" Tigers teammate Chris Lawrence was far more diplomatic, but said that "rival NRL clubs should not be made to pay for the mistakes of others" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/20).

FACE TO FACE: Also in Sydney, Heath Aston reported suspected sporting drug cheats "will be forced to submit to interviews after an 11th-hour deal was struck between the Gillard government and the Greens to ratchet up the powers" of the ASADA. The new law -- to be rushed through Parliament by Thursday -- "will give the stuttering investigation new life, with up to 50 NRL players now in the sights of ASADA" (SMH, 3/20).

SEEKING SUPPORT: Also in Sydney, Josh Massoud reported the NRL's entire welfare unit visited Cronulla Tuesday "to meet with sacked Sharks coaching staff and players distressed over their uncertain fates." Axed football Manager Darren Mooney and head trainer Mark Noakes "joined the current squad for a two-hour lunch with four NRL staff at the Royal Motor Boat Yacht Club on Port Hacking" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3/20).