Former Broncos, Warriors and Cowboys legend Brent Tate has had enough of the game's image being soiled by regular drug offenders and has called for those embroiled in the latest scandal to be rubbed out for the rest of the year.
Three players and a high-ranking club official were charged with drug offences in the lead-up to and during Representative Round with Jesse Bromwich (Storm), Kevin Proctor (Titans) and Shaun Kenny-Dowall (Roosters) all unavailable for their respective teams this weekend.
Bromwich was handed a two-game suspension among other punishments by the Storm, Proctor has stood down from his role as co-captain and suspended for four matches by the Titans while Kenny-Dowall has been stood down by the Roosters indefinitely.
There has been an acknowledgement this week that the use of illicit drugs is not an issue confined only to the world of rugby league but Tate is adamant that it is time for a hard-line stance to be taken before further damage is done to the game's reputation and standing in the community.
Writing in this week's issue of Big League, Tate believes NRL players should be held to a higher standard than the rest of society and that those who transgress should be harshly dealt with.
"Every NRL player, whether they like it or not, is a role model and has a responsibility to set an example," Tate says in the Indigenous Round issue of Big League.
"The way players present themselves is a reflection of the game as a whole and I wouldn't have a problem if the NRL came down really hard on drug offenders.
"These players who have been caught up with drugs shouldn't be let off lightly and I hope the NRL takes a strong stance – I'd like to see them rubbed out for the rest of the year.
"It might sound harsh, but at the end of the day they've let down the game and their clubs.
"If we can control how we are and what we stand for then the game will have a positive impact."
Beyond the reputational damage suffered by the game in the wake of the negative headlines, Tate – who now works within the community arm of the North Queensland Cowboys – says it undermines the leadership rugby league can provide for the broader society.
"I've never understood why players take drugs and I'll never comprehend why they risk it. It's so dumb and I don't get it," Tate says.
"But recreational drug use isn't just a problem in our game – it's becoming a common trend in society.
"The NRL is in a great position of influence and has the ability to persuade young kids to help them along their way. The league has an opportunity to show society it's not the norm to take drugs, but there are a handful of players ruining this.
"Our game has a real opportunity to help society by taking a strong stance against drugs and enforcing a zero-tolerance policy."
The Indigenous Round issue of Big League featuring stories on Matt Gillett, Jarrod Wallace and the wonderful work Dylan Walker, Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds are doing alongside Kevin Heath at the Dream Time Academy is on sale now at newsagents, supermarkets, at the ground and via www.magsonline.com.au/big-league.