Australian Rugby League Commission chairman John Grant has dismissed the prospect of ASADA crashing the State of Origin party, claiming the game was ‘‘not in the slightest’’ worried about imminent show-cause notices lobbing in the middle of NRL’s showpiece.
Essendon chairman Paul Little on Friday confirmed the AFL club would lodge Federal Court action against ASADA after 34 of its 2012 players were handed notices for alleged doping violations.
And rugby league is expected to be delivered similar show-cause notices within a matter of days as the future of 17 Cronulla players from their 2011 squad remains clouded as a result of the investigation.
Should rugby league’s show-cause notices be delivered next week, it will be an unwelcome distraction from the most keenly anticipated Origin match in recent memory.
NSW need to win at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday night to end Queensland’s eight-year dynasty.
Asked if the findings of the ASADA investigation process had the potential to spoil rugby league’s blue-chip series, Grant said: ‘‘Not in the slightest. What could detract from Origin – particularly with NSW one-up?’’
Grant was making his first trip to Wollongong as the special guest of the Illawarra Cutters’ annual mid-season luncheon.
While obviously relieved the prolonged process appeared to be another step nearer to ending, he defended the NRL’s handling of the case so far and admitted there was still ‘‘a way to go’’ before it was firmly in the rear-view mirror.
‘‘ASADA’s job is to uncover the facts and on the basis of the facts to table those facts to the governing bodies – ourselves and the AFL – and we’ve got to make decisions about what we do with it,’’ Grant said.
‘‘It’ll be really interesting to see how the Essendon club handles [the show-cause notices] and how the AFL handles it. We’ve been pretty clear about [our stance] and we’ve always been as transparent as we can possibly be.
‘‘I also think we’ve acted appropriately to make sure that players, clubs and ASADA are all doing the right thing. The issue of notices really starts another step in the process and this has still got a bit of a way to go, too.’’
Grant’s visit to Wollongong also raised issues about the NRL’s hands-on involvement in helping some of its struggling clubs, including St George Illawarra.
The governing body has propped up the Dragons financially and also encouraged the club to shift some its home games to bigger Sydney stadiums to alleviate financial pressures.
Grant said the NRL did not intend to delve into the day-to-day running of clubs, after it sorts through Newcastle’s ownership problems.
‘‘The NRL clubs have never been funded better,’’ he said. ‘‘How they apply those funds is up to them – and they have to be sustainable footy clubs.
‘‘We’ve stepped in at Newcastle and we have no desire to own football clubs, but the outcome there is a really good outcome compared to where it was and compared to other clubs.
‘‘I guess we’re going to take a hand where we need to take a hand, a la Newcastle, and we’re going to support where we need to support – and we’re supporting St George Illawarra now because it’s the right thing to do.’’
Grant reaffirmed the NRL’s push into grassroots country areas, saying the Illawarra boasted a ‘‘perfect structure’’.
‘‘We’re firmly focused on making sure that we attract people into the game at the appropriate level and we provide competition pathways for them to be able to go all the way from under 6s right through to the elite competition and the Kangaroos.
‘‘If you look at the Illawarra, you’ve got all that.’’