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

Michael Burgess: Brave call to ban Kiwis stars from a World Cup

The New Zealand Rugby League have taken a brave - and perhaps unprecedented stance - with the punishment handed down to Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor.

The NZRL announced on Monday that Bromwich and Proctor would be stood down from the upcoming World Cup, in the wake of the cocaine incident outside a Canberra night club in the early hours of Saturday.

It's a courageous step, because the punishment is arguably much more severe than other recent cases.

More than a dozen Cronulla players were involved in the peptides saga, which tore the Sydney club apart, but most were only stood down for three games, as their one year suspensions were backdated.

Ben Barba's sanction for his first offence at the Sharks was a fine, which was kept private under the NRL's three strikes system, before his 12-match ban for a second offence after the 2016 grand final win.

There have been numerous other episodes in the NRL involving drink, drugs or violence without comparable sanctions.

And what about the Kiwis after the 2013 World Cup Stilnox saga, involving sleeping pills and energy drinks? At least six players were believed to be involved in those incidents, which took place before the quarter-final and final, and were a factor in the team's lacklustre performance in the Old Trafford decider, with New Zealand smashed 34-2 by the Kangaroos.

But most of those implicated played in the Four Nations tournament the following year and at least one player was forgiven almost immediately and took part in the 2014 Anzac test.

In this case Bromwich and Proctor will miss the entire quadrennial tournament, and who knows if they will still be in the frame for the 2021 edition in England, when they are both 32-years-old?

Both players were understood to be devastated when they got the news from coach David Kidwell, perhaps expecting that their club sanctions would be the end of the matter. But the NZRL feel they were backed into a corner, with a dammed if you do, dammed if you don't scenario.

There was the possibility of standing the players down for the first pool game against Samoa, and stripping Bromwich of his captaincy position, but that was never seriously considered.

The national body decided quite quickly the pair would be out of contention for the World Cup, because they had to make a statement.

There couldn't be a grey area, and the public nature of their offence has brought the game into disrepute on this side of the Tasman.

What makes this worse is that Bromwich and Proctor have given great service to their country, and were part of some of the biggest wins in Kiwis history.

As Kieran Foran said yesterday on Radio Sport, "they are both quality men who shouldn't be defined by one poor decision they made".

Let's hope they won't be.

- 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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