A Warriors recruit has been caught up in the drugs probe into Australian sport and it could have an impact on the makeup of Matt Elliott's squad next season.
Jayson Bukuya, who in May signed a two-year contract to play at Mt Smart from 2014, was named as one of eight Cronulla players who had reportedly been considering a deal with anti-doping officials that would have seen him accept a six-month ban.
Up to 14 Cronulla players are said to be among 30 NRL players and a number of support staff who have been told to schedule interviews with the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority's (Asada) as part of their ongoing drugs investigation. The players had 48 hours to respond and interviews will commence on August 1.
Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah said they had not had any contact from Asada advising them of any of their players being on the list. "And nor do we expect any [contact]," Scurrah said.
They will, however, be watching developments across the Tasman with interest, and it will be a similar situation with the Kiwis.
The Newcastle Knights, who in February were one of six clubs to meet with the NRL's integrity unit after being named in the Australian Crime Commission's investigation into drugs in sport and organised crime, have neither confirmed nor denied Jeremy Smith was one of the 30 players.
Smith, who has been a fixture in the New Zealand side since 2007, was at Cronulla in 2011 - the year that has become a focus of Asada's investigations.
Players face bans of up to two years if charged with doping offences.
Sydney's Daily Telegraph said Bukuya was one of eight Sharks players considering an offer to accept a six-month "no significant fault" ban and waive any future grievances against the Sharks in return for the club guaranteeing not to sack any players, a percentage of the salary cap increase for 2014 and one-year contract extensions for off-contract players.
The newspaper said all eight, who also included NSW captain Paul Gallen, Wade Graham, Nathan Gardner, Nathan Stapleton, Matthew Wright and Stewart Mills, rejected the deal when they discovered Essendon AFL players might escape any suspensions under a separate government agreement.
Asada issued a statement rejecting the reports, saying they had not offered "a zero sanction to any athlete or support person", and Gallen also said the players never seriously considered a plea bargain with Asada because they didn't think they had done anything wrong.
The eight players have maintained they are innocent victims and had been told by club officials the products they were given were safe to use and had been cleared by Asada.
They also claimed the club effectively forced them to use the supplements but drug guidelines have always put the onus on individuals to be responsible for what they take.
The Warriors were last night standing by their man.
"We aren't in a position to comment until the enquiry is finished," Scurrah said. "As far as we are concerned, Jayson is a contracted player for next season."
Any ban would have an impact on their squad next season. Bukuya is being seen as a replacement for Elijah Taylor, who is joining Ivan Cleary at Penrith. The 24-year-old is a hard-working, hard-nosed second rower who is starting to make an impact in the NRL.
Bukuya is likely to feature at Mt Smart Stadium next Saturday when Cronulla visit but before then Melbourne take on the Warriors at home on Sunday.
Warriors coach Matt Elliott yesterday made only one change to the starting side that beat Wests Tigers 24-14, with Ngani Laumape coming in for winger Glen Fisiiahi who is out for the rest of the season with a pectoral injury.
Warriors side to play Melbourne at Mt Smart on Sunday (2pm):
Kevin Locke, Ngani Laumape, Dane Nielsen, Konrad Hurrell, Manu Vatuvei, Thomas Leuluai, Shaun Johnson, Sam Rapira, Nathan Friend, Ben Matulino, Feleti Mateo, Simon Mannering, Elijah Taylor. Interchange: Suaia Matagi, Jacob Lillyman, Todd Lowrie, Dominique Peyroux.