Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has confirmed that centre Brent Naden will miss the opening four weeks of the NRL season as a result of his positive cocaine test following last year’s Grand Final.
Naden would be free to play in round one after serving a back-dated ban and being fined by the NRL, but Cleary has opted to hand down further punishment.
Despite media reports suggesting the ban was self-imposed, the Weekender has confirmed it was the decision of Cleary and the club’s leadership group to put a line through Naden’s name for the first month of the season.
“In the days immediately following the Grand Final, Brent’s welfare was the first priority for everyone at the club,” Cleary said.
“This incident revealed some personal issues for which Brent has received professional guidance and continues to do so.
“With the NRL investigation being completed, it is important for us to now recognise that Brent’s behaviour fell well short of the club’s and team’s standards.
“We acknowledge the significant role mental health issues played in his decision-making however we feel a four-game sanction is appropriate considering all circumstances.”
Naden is off-contract at Penrith at the end of the season and is said to be on his last warning at the club.
He will have his chance to impress through reserve grade and will be available for selection for Penrith’s round five clash against Canberra.
With Dean Whare recently leaving the club, it means that either Tyrone May or new recruit Paul Momirovski would likely be named in the centres for the opening game of the season against the Cowboys.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.