David Skipwith is the Herald's rugby league reporter

NRL: Former Warriors coach Matthew Elliott confronted players about suspected abuse of prescription drugs

Former Warriors coach Matthew Elliott says he confronted individual players about his suspicions they were abusing prescription drugs. Photo/Getty.
Former Warriors coach Matthew Elliott says he confronted individual players about his suspicions they were abusing prescription drugs. Photo/Getty.

Former coach Matthew Elliott confronted individual Warriors players over suspicions they were abusing prescription drugs but denies the problem impacted upon his tenure at the club.

Elliott, who took over from Brian McClennan in 2013 before he was sacked five games into the 2014 season, told Fox Sports on Wednesday he suspected Warriors players were abusing prescription medication during his stint in charge but lacked the proof to take his concerns to NRL bosses.

"I suspected [prescription drug abuse]," said Elliot. "The last person that knows in those circumstances [is the coach], because those prescription drugs aren't performance enhancers. They're the exact opposite. They're performance detractors. The head coach will be the last person to know. I suspected as much, though."

Speaking to The Herald today, Elliott confirmed he raised his concerns with certain Warriors players but, while noting the misuse of prescription drugs is a problem prevalent in wider society, he did so to try to gain understanding of their problems rather than looking to condemn or punish them.

And while the misuse of prescription drugs does not aid or enhance a player's performance, he was adamant the problem was not responsible for the side's poor run of results during his time as coach.

"I spoke to individuals," said Elliott, who was talking in the wake of the revelation Warriors players mixed energy drinks and prescription drugs last week, which saw them dropped by the Warriors and made unavailable for test selection.

"There are always individual circumstances around this sort of stuff and there needs to be a great deal of delicacy.

"I don't feel like my tenure at the Warriors was impacted by players abusing prescription drugs. It doesn't help you win games of footy but if coaches come out and start saying that type of stuff, that's bullshit.

"They shouldn't be doing it and it's not helping them or their team, but if people expressed a little bit more care than vitriol it might have a bit more of a positive impact."

The mixing of sleeping pills and energy drinks was fingered by the Kiwis for their dismal performance in the 2013 World Cup final.

The best and most effective way for clubs to address or minimise the problem, Elliott believes, is for strong and proactive leadership among the playing group. Senior players need to set high standards and come down hard on any teammates found to be behaving inappropriately.

"The real answer to it is to have an attitude across the playing group that this actually prevents us from winning games of footy and if you do it you're just basically shitting on us.

"Clubs and coaches can bring in sanctions and deterrents to doing it, but the only effective way to address this issue is by strong long-term leadership in the playing group. The leaders, they rip into blokes who do decide to do it."

That was not a comment on the Warriors, Elliott insisted, but rather an endorsement of the strong leadership structures in place at heavyweight NRL clubs such as Melbourne Storm.

"If [Storm and Australian captain] Cameron Smith somehow found out that one of the young guys or maybe one of the older guys was doing this, what do you think he'd do? Do you think he'd tell [coach] Craig Bellamy or do you think he would handle it himself?

"Some places don't have this issue, not because they don't have access to it, not because players decide not to do it, but when they do it the coach doesn't even find out about it. The club doesn't find out about it.

"[But] they get shreds torn off them by their mates because, in an environment that is happy, they can handle that. They don't try and preserve relationships, they build them."

The Herald contacted former Warriors chief executive Wayne Scurrah to get his view on the extent of the issue during his time at the helm (2006-2014) but he declined to comment.

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter


© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 23 Oct 2016 23:59:40 Processing Time: 601ms