RUGBY LEAGUE: NRL chief executive Dave Smith has given reassurances the Gold Coast Titans will be part of this season's NRL competition, despite the drug scandal that has rocked the club.
Five players, including Origin representatives Greg Bird and Dave Taylor, winger Kalifa Faifai Loa, and 2014 Titans player of the year Beau Falloon, will front the club's board in coming days to explain why their contracts should not be terminated after being charged with supplying cocaine.
Gold Coast chief executive Graham Annesley said yesterday he had been told no more players from the club would become part of the drug investigation.
He also said the club had secured a new training venue after deciding on Friday it would not be appropriate to continue training at The Southport School on the Gold Coast after the initial allegations of drug supply and possession against Fallon, fringe first-grader Jamie Dowling and ex-player Joe Vickery.
With the Titans unable to sign any replacement players until any of the five current squad members facing charges are sacked, the club is almost certain to field an under-strength line-up for next weekend's round-one clash against Wests Tigers at Cbus Super Stadium.
It is also still without a main sponsor, but despite all of those issues, Smith said the NRL backed the club.
"At the end of the day this is about the fans," he told Fox Sports. "The fans deserve a team on the Gold Coast, and they will have a team on the Gold Coast. It will be a strong team ... a team they can be proud of."
He also said the NRL was still waiting for more detail from the Crime Commission before it took any action.
"They're very serious charges, but that's all they are ... charges," Smith said. "Everybody gets the presumption of innocence in my mind. But, anybody that does the wrong thing, anybody that brings the game into disrepute will expect very serious consequences."
He said those consequences could include "not playing in the game anymore".
The Rugby League Players Association released a statement echoing Smith's views on the players' rights to the presumption of innocence.
"Any prejudgment or any disciplinary action could prejudice their cases and might undermine the court process," the statement read.
"The RLPA does not condone the use of illicit drugs, but we recognise it as an issue that impacts all levels of society."
Falloon, Dowling and Vickery are due to face Southport Magistrates' Court on March 5, while Bird, Taylor and Faifai Loa will front the same court on March 9, two days after the Titans first game.
- APN SPORTS BUREAU
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