Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Rugby League: Skipper backs stars to return

Bromwich claims Warriors stood down in energy drinks-drugs saga will be back in test footy in future.
National league coach Stephen Kearney runs the Kiwis through their drills at Moore Park in Sydney yesterday. Photo / Photosport
National league coach Stephen Kearney runs the Kiwis through their drills at Moore Park in Sydney yesterday. Photo / Photosport

Kiwis league captain Jesse Bromwich is adamant there is a road back for embattled Warriors Manu Vatuvei, Ben Matulino and Bodene Thompson, despite the ongoing fallout from the "gang of six" saga.

As the Herald revealed yesterday, it's understood the trio, along with Sam Lisone and Albert Vete, have admitted to the club that they mixed energy drinks and prescription medicines on their eventful night out in Auckland last week.

That has led to further condemnation in league circles, and questions about the international futures of the trio as the Kiwis prepare to play Australia in Newcastle on Friday.

But Bromwich, who has played alongside Vatuvei and Matulino in some of the Kiwis' most memorable matches of recent times, said it is not the end of the road.

"They'll bounce back," said the new skipper. "I know it was only a one off. They are very professional and they are my close mates. I wouldn't say I am worried about them ... more I feel for them at the moment."

The new skipper is particularly close to Matulino, who was a mentor to the prop when he first came into the Kiwis environment.

"He is one of my close mates but I guess it is part of the culture now," said Bromwich. "You can't go around doing that and get in the team. I feel for him, I know it is gutting for him and Manu. I feel for the boys but we have to get on with the week."

Kiwis wing Jason Nightingale added: "They are both big parts of our squad and it is a shame not to have them here but I am sure they will be back in the squad in no time at all."

They'll bounce back. I know it was a one off.
Kiwis skipper Jesse Bromwich

Coach Stephen Kearney was unwilling to discuss the representative futures of the trio, but admitted there will be a thorough investigation. It's a issue that runs close to the bone for Kearney; he felt personally let down by a number of his players at the 2013 World Cup, who indulged in a similar energy drink/prescription medicines cocktail during the tournament. That was a contributing factor to the derailing of the campaign, as the Kiwis crashed to a 34-2 defeat in the final.

So do they have a test future?

"That is something I can't answer today," said Kearney. "I've got a test match to prepare for and once this is out of the way I will sit down with the appropriate people. I need to take into consideration all the circumstances and not be rushed into a decision. My focus is on the group I have here for Friday's game."

Kearney also confirmed once he was informed of all the circumstances behind last week's events, the players had marked their cards.

"Knowing all the circumstances our view on it was that they were not going to be considered for selection," said Kearney.

The Warriors are also considering their options. Club CEO Jim Doyle met each of the players last Friday and it's understood there will be further meetings this week between the club, the athletes and their representatives.

In a statement to the club, Konrad Hurrell has maintained he did not join the others in taking energy drinks and prescription medicines and was the designated driver on the night of the incident.

The saga is an unfortunate situation but also a reality in professional sports. There have been several recent instances in league but other sports have been affected, including rugby in New Zealand and swimming in Australia.

- NZ Herald

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