A prominent former NRL player yesterday spoke with me of the pressure on players and medical staff to “push the envelope” with their training regimes and treatment of injuries.
When asked whether the use of performance enhancing drugs was common practice in rugby league, the player, who asked to remain anonymous, responded, “Man, this is all old news.
“Around high pressure games and with big name players, I know there has been some forms of borderline techniques used that you wouldn’t generally suggest to your average player in the middle of the season,” he said.
“In high pressure situations (like the finals) the injuries are addressed differently. The player obviously wants to play but the person making the injection always makes the call and that’s usually the doctor.”
As a sports journalist, you’d be forgiven for forgiving the NRL because, gosh, they really do give us some good stuff to talk about.
A toilet tryst here, match-fixing there – throw in a Kings Cross shooting – and we almost have our back pages sorted for the season.
Only a few weeks out from the NRL season-opener, a game loved by millions has been dragged well and truly into the mud of what began as an AFL-only drug scandal.
However, before fans rush to judgment, at least one former player has asked they walk a mile in the competitors’ footy boots.
“If a player is being told, ‘If we do this we can get you to play sooner rather than later’, you won’t find any single player asking ‘is it legal?’ or ‘can I see the ingredients?’
“They just want to play and they are going to say ‘yes’. Always,” said the player.
Asked if coaches turn a blind eye to practices that might sail close the wind in terms of legality, the player said, “I think, for most doctors, if they can get that player right, the coach will then see them as a good doc to have on staff.
“You’ve got to remember that not all coaches are educated on what the doc is doing – that’s why they have the doc; they don’t need to be thinking about how a player is being treated, they have a team to train.
“For example, if the physio is not getting players ready in time and they still have niggling injuries, the coach isn’t going to want to re-sign them.
“Whereas, if you have a bloke that’s getting the boys on the paddock as quickly as possible and pulling up well after games, then that doctor is doing a great job.”
Peptides. Supplements. Pigs’ blood. Makes you “more better” in the lingo of current players.
If you play professional rugby league, however, you shouldn’t be doing it. Sadly, that has now been shown to be a fantasy, part of a make-believe world where match-fixing only happens in cricket.
“The physios and doctors are probably under more pressure than the players,” said the former player, who also asked what would any other average 22-year-old do?
No skills other than football – the choice is between a grand final or starting a trade.
“At the end of the day, if someone is told they are going to be out four weeks injured, yet the team could make the grand final in three weeks, what is a player to do?
“I’d do it. It’s your one shot. What are you supposed to do?”