7th Tackle: How many NRL players are on first strikes for drugs?

There’s 400 full-time players registered in the NRL. How many of those would you estimate are sitting on a first strike for failing an in-house drug test?

Your guess has probably gone north since last month’s cocaine storm involving three players and ex-Sharks chairman Damian Keogh.

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But would it go as far as 160? That’s the number well-placed sources believe are currently sitting in second-last chance saloon, facing a 12-week ban should they transgress again.

It’s difficult to get a definitive guide to the scale of the problem – and whether this number includes lower tier players – because the NRL has a hardline policy against divulging any information about first-time offenders.

Pic: Getty
Pic: Getty

But it doesn’t take Nostradamus to predict the issue will become commonplace, if it hasn’t already.

Which brings us to the compelling case of sacked Rooster Shaun Kenny-Dowall.

As late as last week, Kenny-Dowall was still in talks to join the Newcastle Knights on a mid-season transfer.

He effectively has just nine days to execute the deal, with both parties agreeing to wait until after his court hearing for cocaine possession charges on June 21.

Knights officials and coaching staff are keen to have him on board ASAP; the improvement a player of his experience and talent would bring to such a young group is obvious.

The stumbling block is Wests Group, which is poised to buy out the Knights later this year.

Wests are wary of the club’s notorious drugs history – both performance enhancing and recreational – and want to avoid any player with a track record in either department.

The problem with that policy is that fewer and fewer players meet a squeaky-clean criteria.

Kenny-Dowall has not only accepted his punishment from the Roosters, but has also proven the substance wasn’t in his system after a series of tests.

The Roosters are now trying to assist his campaign to get a second chance with the Knights.

Others have been given such a benefit for much, much worse.