Kiwis star, Warrior expect to learn of fate soon

WAITING GAME: Warriors forward Jayson Bukuya.
WAITING GAME: Warriors forward Jayson Bukuya.

A Warriors player and a Kiwi international who were part of Cronulla's supplements programme in 2011 are expected to learn tomorrow whether they will spend up to six months on the sidelines.

Warriors forward Jayson Bukuya, who moved to Auckland from the Sharks at the start of this season, and Knights and Kiwis player Jeremy Smith are among 17 members of Cronulla's 2011 squad who reportedly may be offered reduced bans of six months or less from the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority (ASADA) at a meeting with NRL officials tomorrow.

Just four of the 10 current NRL players affected are still playing for the Sharks.

According to reports, many of the players are concerned they may have to provide evidence that would enable the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority to charge other people in return for the heavily discounted suspensions, which would begin in the off-season.

Under the World Anti-Doping Agency's rules, athletes are usually only entitled to a 75 per cent reduction of the standard two-year ban for illegal drug use if they make a full admission and provide substantial assistance that leads to someone else being charged.

The players, who are yet to be advised of the meeting, also say they would be reluctant to admit to using a banned substance after maintaining for 18 months that they never knowingly did so. 

ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt is believed to be keen to have the Sharks case finalised before the end of the season in three weeks.

If players accept six-month bans beginning on September 8, they would miss just the first month of the 2015 season - although they would not be able to train with their team or have any official involvement with the club. Fairfax Media has been told some players may be offered lesser bans of as little as a month or three months.

It is believed the offer will only apply to those who played for the Sharks between rounds two and five of the 2011 season and with hooker John Morris retiring, skipper Paul Gallen, fellow back-rowers Wade Graham and Anthony Tupou and fullback Nathan Gardner are the only players still at the club.

Former Sharks players at other clubs are expected to be offered similar deals, including Newcastle forwards Smith and Kade Snowden, Gold Coast's Albert Kelly and Luke Douglas, Bukuya and North Queensland three-quarter Matthew Wright.

There are also several players who have moved to Super League to continue their careers, including Catalans centre Ben Pomeroy, Leeds hooker Paul Aiton and prop Josh Cordoba, who recently signed with London Broncos.

The players were advised of a meeting last week but it was cancelled. 

Sharks chief executive Steve Noyce said he hoped the end was near but did not want to add to any speculation about what may happen at the meeting.

"We will see what happens, part of this whole problem is reading about it or hearing it on the news," Noyce said.

"It has clearly been a case at times where there hasn't been enough respect shown to the players involved in this process or the people who love them, and that is important. Hopefully if any meetings are held this week then that is a process that will help bring this thing to fruition."

Former Cronulla and Newcastle star Matthew Johns said on his Triple M breakfast program on Monday that a six-month ban to begin in the off-season would be hard for any player to refuse.

"If you are a Sharks player, given everything you have gone through, not only is it bringing some finality to this mess but I think all in all that is not a bad result," Johns said.

A New Zealand Rugby League spokesman said the organisation would not comment on Smith's situation until any ban had been handed down.

Sydney Morning Herald