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Voss: Tougher penalties on drugs

I am joining the growing chorus of rugby league fans who want to see tougher penalties on players taking illegal drugs, writes Andrew Voss.

What's next in the NRL's stance against illegal drugs?

Allow me to join the growing chorus of rugby league fans who want to see tougher penalties.

To me it is obvious. There can be no more money spent on education in this area. It is so black and white. Drugs such as cocaine are illegal. To buy such a drug is a criminal offence. 

Every player and official has been warned multiple times. Tough luck if you can't work it out. No more leniency on first strikes. 

The NRL can't change the world on what is a huge problem in society. But it can look after its own backyard.

If you want to play in the NRL, don't take drugs. Pretty simple message.

If you still take the risk, well then prepare to suffer the consequences. It's a minimum eight-week ban in my book. And I can't see where any negative would come from the sport getting that tough.

Who is going to challenge Australia at the World Cup this year?

Right now, the Kangaroos are odds-on favourites to defend their Cup title won in 2013.

And it's not that Australia has surged clear of their own doing. I was bitterly disappointed with the Kiwis again last Friday night. After their underwhelming performance at the Four Nations, I expected so much more from what looked a far stronger side on paper.

To see the Kiwis down 30-nil shortly after half-time was a shock. If I'm David Kidwell, I'd be attempting to schedule a Test against Samoa around the time Origin III will be played. They need another Test, and quick, to get back on track.

Such an international wouldn't be a bad thing either for Samoa who were outplayed by Wayne Bennett's England side at Campbelltown.

While I would have loved an England v New Zealand Test while a Lions squad was in this part of the world, I understand that's not an easy thing to organize.

But can anyone come up with a reason why a New Zealand v Samoa Test couldn't happen on July 12? That's two months to get ready. I'm in!

What happened to Australia against New Zealand Tests?

Have I missed something here?

While I'm delighted to see an international schedule locked in that includes a commitment to Australia and New Zealand touring Great Britain on a more regular basis, what happens to fostering Trans-Tasman rivalry?

Australia and New Zealand are a three-hour flight apart.

How can there not be a two-Test, home and away series between the nations every season? Rugby union has its Bledisloe Cup; how is it rugby league can't see the potential of such fixtures?

It seems I stand alone in declaring that we should do all we can to make the Australia-New Zealand rivalry what we have in State of Origin. We have never had more Kiwi-eligible players in the NRL, and that number is increasing.

I think it is a disgrace that our national team will only play one Test again in 2018. The same happened in 2015. Again last week we gave these two Test nations just a couple of training sessions to prepare for a match.

Am I the only one who sees the jewel in the rugby league crown that the Kangaroos and Kiwis could be?

Who is the best Englishman in the NRL?

We all got to see the best of the NRL's British contingent last Saturday night, and in my opinion it confirmed that we have an absolute standout among the current crop.

While the likes of Sam Burgess and James Graham are outstanding players, hooker Josh Hodgson stands tall as the best.

The match against Samoa was yet another classy performance from this bloke. He has so many skills, and what's more, under Ricky Stuart at Canberra he has developed into an 80-minute player. That's also handy now for Wayne Bennett when he sits down to name a 17 for England.

And in terms of hookers in the competition, only the great Cameron Smith is ahead of Hodgson.

Is this crunch time for the Panthers?

You'd have to think so. And here are the facts.

If they lose to the Warriors on Saturday, they could be as many as eight competition points outside of the top eight.

The only games they've won this year are against the two teams either side of them at the bottom of the table, the Wests Tigers and the Knights.

There has been no home sweet home element to playing at Pepper Stadium with losses so far this year to the Roosters, Rabbitohs and Sharks.

They are on a five-game losing streak and haven't scored a first-half point in their last three matches.

I thought I saw glimpses of a return to form in the second half of their most recent loss to Brisbane. 

If there is a dry track on Saturday afternoon, I've got a feeling the clash with the Warriors could be high scoring.

Don't ever forget how tough this sport is

I have made the point many times before when we start to discuss the potential earnings of players.

Good luck to them I say if they can secure big money, because the game can be so fickle.

I feel desperately sorry this week for a couple of players who were looking to re-establish their careers. Internationals Jamal Idris and Tony Williams have now both suffered season ending knee injuries. There is uncertainty over the playing futures of both.

I saw on social media a photo of talented young Melbourne prop Christian Welch after his knee surgery. Christian is about to embark on the many months of laborious and tough rehab, far from the eye of the fans.

Stars like Greg Inglis, Matt Scott and Josh Mansour are all going through the process at the moment. 

Good luck fellas. Your return to the field can't come soon enough.

I'm off to the double header at Suncorp Stadium this Saturday for Fox League in the NRL's Indigenous round, and will back up in Newcastle on Mothers Day for the Knights showdown with the Raiders.

Giddy up!

Twitter: @AndrewVossy


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