Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy has broken his silence over the white-powder saga, saying his players were well aware of their actions.
Bellamy, the reigning Dally M coach of the year, says he only found out about the video of his players partying with white powder half an hour before the NRL awards.
Storm trio Cameron Munster, Brandon Smith and Chris Lewis were sanctioned by the NRL for their actions which followed the team’s finals exit at the hands of Penrith.
Issued with NRL breach notices this week for bringing the game into disrepute, Bellamy’s players will miss the 2022 season-opener and face various fines, with Munster hardest hit with a $30,000 penalty.
Speaking on Afternoon’s with 4BC, Bellamy said it’s been “very disappointing for the club and the game” and that his players were well aware they’d done the wrong thing.
“When I was their age, we used to go out and have six, eight, 10 schooners,” he said.
“But the big difference is having half a dozen schooners isn’t illegal. And that’s what disappoints me so much in that, those guys earn a good living, they’re doing what they love in life and what they did was illegal.
“And, they were very, very well aware of that.
“But like I say, they still ventured there … and that’s done now but we’ve got to make sure we give them the help and the guidance they need not to do it again. And hopefully that’ll be the case.”
Storm boss Justin Rodski said his players hadn’t admitted taking any drugs and the NRL was unable to test them for illicit substances in the off-season.
“The findings from the NRL integrity unit haven’t produced any evidence to suggest what was in the video,” Rodski said.
“Through excessive consumption of alcohol and intoxication the players have limited memory of what did or didn’t take place in that hotel room.”
He also defended the one-game bans and said the “totality of sanctions and penalties handed down across the NRL and the club were significant and serious”.
The club has put Munster on a 12-month booze ban, fined him $100,000 which is suspended and axed him from the leadership group.
Munster has also entered an alcohol treatment facility for the next four weeks after admitting he has a “difficult relationship” with booze.