The South Sydney Rabbitohs have completed their investigation into the circumstances that led to players Dylan Walker and Aaron Gray being hospitalised on 22 September 2015.
The Club undertook a thorough process which involved interviews with key persons including the two players concerned, the receipt of verbal and written submissions from both players, a review of the Club's medical log and an audit of the Club's protocols relating to the treatment and recovery of players from surgery and major injury.
The Board of the South Sydney Football Club was presented with the report of the investigations prepared by CEO, John Lee, in consultation with the NRL Integrity Unit. It resolved to issue show cause notices to both players, asking each of them to answer allegations that they had not met their obligations under the terms of their NRL playing contracts, the NRL Code of Conduct and the South Sydney Football Club Code of Conduct.
Both players appeared before the Board and presented separate submissions accompanied by their respective representatives.
The findings of the investigation and the show cause hearings were presented to the Board at its 24 November meeting. After requesting further information, the Board has determined that:
• there was no evidence that either player had illicit substances or alcohol in his system;
• both players had nonetheless sourced additional pain-killing medication from their own GPs on the day of the incident, clearly beyond that which was prescribed by their specialists following their respective surgeries; and
• by their actions and their consequent hospitalisation, the players had brought the Club and the NRL into serious disrepute.
Accordingly, the Board directed that both players will:
1. attend educational sessions to better understand how to correctly use medicines;
2. undertake a minimum of 20 hours of community service (in addition to normal Club obligations) including speaking to groups about their experiences and learnings;
3. make themselves available for ongoing regular testing for drugs including prescription drugs; and
4. each be penalised 5% of their 2015 contract value, with a further 5% to be suspended pending successful completion of points 1 and 2 and their co-operation with point 3 above.
The Board has also decided that the fines imposed will be forfeited by the Club and donated to charities, including St Vincent's Hospital's Alcohol & Drug Service.
Through a separate process, the Club undertook a review of its Medications Policy. This focused on the practical application of the policy and whether more comprehensive protocols were required in the light of the incident involving players Walker & Gray.
Having considered the findings of the review, the Board resolved to:
• modify and strengthen its Medications Policy and the Club's Code of Conduct; to place the responsibility on our players to report any prescriptions obtained other than from the Club Doctor to the Club's Medical Officer,
• increase its level of education to players of all levels around the correct use of prescription medication, and the consequences of their misuse.
Mr Lee commented that: "The review was comprehensive and a proactive step to modernise our Medications Policy.
"We consulted some of the top sporting bodies and organisations in Australia, including the Australian Institute of Sport, to ensure that our policy is contemporary, practical and focuses on the wellbeing of our players.
"We will work closely with all of our players to ensure an incident like this doesn't happen again. It was harrowing for the players' families, friends and Club mates; and it impacted the reputation of our Club which does so much good work, alongside Souths Cares, in our communities."