FORMER Sydney Roosters coach Brad Fittler says Todd Carney's rehabilitation won't be complete until he stops shying away from references to the alcohol-fuelled incidents that have sullied his career to date.
After being dumped by the Canberra Raiders in 2008 for a series of drink-driving offences, Carney made a stunning return to the NRL in 2010, leading the Roosters' return to the finals and winning the Dally M player of the year award.
But he erased much of his newfound credibility at 7am on Saturday when he was charged with drink-driving after a random breath test in Sydney's eastern suburbs.
Carney, who was on his way to an early-morning meeting with his manager, reportedly blew 0.052. His provisional licence requires that he drive with a blood-alcohol reading of 0.00 at all times.
The Roosters said in a statement they would support Carney and discuss an appropriate punishment with him in due course.
Fittler said he began to harbor doubts about Carney's rehabilitation after his response to a reporter's question last year.
"He commented on a journalist saying he was reformed and he sort of opposed that, saying 'I wish no one would call me reformed any more'," Fittler told BigPond Sports Weekend on Saturday.
"I thought that was a real sign that I don't think he's come to grips with what's going to happen for the rest of his life.
"He's always going to be the Todd Carney from 2009. He's never going to be the Todd Carney of 2010. We're always going to think of him as the bloke who did so much and then came so good.
"He's always going to be tied to the bad stuff and I think coming to grips with that is going to be really important... he's got to become better from it."
Fittler said it was important to keep the seriousness of Carney's transgression in perspective.
"He went to bed last night, woke up in the morning and drove. We've got to make it clear that he didn't leave a pub at 3 in the morning and was blind drunk. I'm sure a lot of people wouldn't realise that they drive over the limit," he said.
Regardless of the degree of offending, Fittler - who captained the Roosters to the 2002 premiership - hoped Carney would recognise that his relationship with alcohol still had the potential to make or break his career.
"The disappointing thing is that he was so wonderful last year, off the drink. But you know what it's like - it's not that easy as a young kid, under the pump, to turn off something you've been doing since you were a teenager," he said.
"Ideally, we'd all like him to say 'I'm off the drink forever' and continue what he did last year. I think that's the heartbreaker."