Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Michael Burgess: NZ pair could be banned for months for alleged cocaine incident

Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor could be facing lengthy suspensions from the sport, if the allegations over cocaine use are proven to be true.

The two Kiwis forwards were named in court documents yesterday, allegedly caught up in a incident outside a Canberra nightclub after Friday's 12-30 loss to the Kangaroos.

The Herald on Sunday understands that top officials from the NRL and its integrity unit were locked in discussions yesterday afternoon and evening, as well as senior officials from the New Zealand Rugby League and the players' respective clubs - the Melbourne Storm and Gold Coast Titans.

Those meetings were set to continue today.

The NRL have a three strikes policy around illicit drug use. A first positive test results in the player receiving a suspended fine, and they must undertake a mandatory treatment programme.

The player is also placed on a monitoring programme which involves testing.

This first strike is kept private.

The NRL's policy states that players who record a second contravention will serve a minimum 12-match ban, face the prospect of contract termination and undergo further treatment and monitoring. A third strike results in more severe disciplinary action.

After his second offence, in the wake of the 2016 grand final, Ben Barba's contract was torn up by the Sharks, and he is now playing in England.

Bromwich's and Proctor's cases, if they are found guilty, could prove more complicated, due to the public circumstances and the fact that cocaine is a class-A drug. It's unknown if either Bromwich or Proctor have a first strike against their names.

The alleged episode - combined with the one-sided match on Friday - could evolve into another dark chapter for New Zealand league.

For a code that struggles to attract corporate support and fights for media coverage, such incidents are very damaging to the game, especially in a World Cup year.

But it's not the end of the world and the sport will bounce back. It always does.

Just look at some of the past incidents. In 1989 David Ewe was sent home from the Kiwis' tour of England, after repeated alcohol-related indiscretions, and later on the same trip three players spent a night in a Spanish jail.

The 2007 Centenary celebrations were ruined by a 0-58 loss to Australia in Wellington, which was followed by a disastrous tour of the England and France. Several players, including captain Roy Asotasi and current coach David Kidwell, publicly questioned coach Gary Kemble's ability which eventually led to his resignation. Around the same time the NZRL was virtually broke, which prompted a damming review from government agency Sparc and resulted in the resignation of the entire board.

The 2013 World Cup was also a forgettable campaign, with a 2-34 loss in the final and the stilnox/energy drinks scandal involving at least six players.

Despite all that, and numerous upheavals at the country's only NRL club over the years, the sport maintains its popularity and supporter base.

If the experienced Bromwich and Proctor were scratched from the World Cup they would be big losses, but not irreplaceable.

- NZ Herald

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Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday. He was named the 2013 New Zealand football writer of the year and was a finalist in the Sports Reporter of the year at the 2014 Canon Media Awards.

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