NRL: Second Kiwi to be interviewed in drugs probe

Centre Dean Whare has joined Kiwis teammate Jeremy Smith in the spotlight as the drugs probe across the Tasman enters a critical phase. Photo / Getty Images.
Centre Dean Whare has joined Kiwis teammate Jeremy Smith in the spotlight as the drugs probe across the Tasman enters a critical phase. Photo / Getty Images.

Centre Dean Whare has joined Kiwis teammate Jeremy Smith in the spotlight as the drugs probe across the Tasman enters a critical phase and the outcome could have an impact on New Zealand's World Cup squad.

Whare was named today by the Sunday Telegraph as one of the 30 players who will be interviewed by anti-doping investigators over the coming weeks. Smith had long been suspected to be on that list, given he was at Cronulla in 2011 - the period at the forefront of investigations into the club - while Whare spent three years at Manly, another club under the spotlight, before moving to Penrith this season.

Both Smith and Whare would be automatic choices for the 24-man Kiwis squad to defend the world title in the UK and France starting at the end of October. Smith has played 23 tests and was the Kiwis Player of the Year in 2008 and 2012 and the 23-year-old Whare has impressed since making his debut in last October's 18-10 defeat to Australia in Townsville.

Past or present Cronulla players make up 14 of the 30 required to be interviewed but the net has widened to include the likes of Brett Stewart and Anthony Watmough at Manly, Wes Naiqama (Penrith but formerly Newcastle), Sandor Earl (Canberra), Luke Douglas and Albert Kelly (Gold Coast but formerly Cronulla) and Kade Snowden (Newcastle but formerly Cronulla).

Paul Gallen, Nathan Gardner, Stewart Mills, John Morris, Ben Pomeroy, Ben Ross, Nathan Stapleton, Anthony Tupou, Matthew Wright and Jayson Bukuya, who is due to join the Warriors next season on a two-year contract, are among the Sharks players due to be interviewed.

Gallen and Watmough are the only current Australian internationals so far known to be on the list.

The common denominator for the Cronulla and Manly players is the association with controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank, who spent time at both clubs, and Darren Hibbert, who reportedly sold supplements to Dank. Both Dank and Hibbert have repeatedly denied supplying players with banned substances.

There have been many critics of Asada's investigation but any player found guilty of using banned drugs faces suspensions of up to two years.

The Sunday Telegraph reported Sea Eagles coach Geoff Toovey and head trainer Don Singe had also been issued interview notices, as well as Des Hasler, who guided Manly to premierships in 2008 and 2011. Hasler has maintained the supplements programmes at the Sea Eagles were all above board and it's been reported he is not wanted for questioning in relation to anti-doping rule violations.

- APNZ

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