Name and shame first-time drug offenders, says Gallen
SHARKS skipper Paul Gallen says naming and shaming players for a first strike drug offence would help combat the use of illicit substances by NRL players.
"Even if your first offence is a public notification, you're not going to put your family and your friends and yourself through that," he told Sky Sports radio.
"We've got to do more than what we are doing at the moment.
"I think to myself from a 20-year old player to the captain to a country, 'would they have done this, would they have gone and attempted to do this if they had known what was going to happen the next day?' and they wouldn't have.
Gallen candidly admitted he 'couldn't have cared' less about the extent of drug use in rugby league until he witnessed it destroy the career of former teammate Ben Barba.
The forward now believes situations like Ben Barba can be avoided if the NRL takes a hard-line approach on offenders to act as a deterrent.
"From my point of view I don't see it a lot [drug use], I know that's because I'm older," he said.
"But six, seven, eight months ago I couldn't have cared less about this and look I know it goes on in society I'm not going to sit here and say no it doesn't.
"I couldn't have cared less if players were doing it or not, but when I saw what Benny Barba went through, I changed my whole mindset on it.
"Eight months ago ... I put my head in the sand about it.
"I've seen first hand, I had to watch Benny Barba leave his family and live overseas for a couple of months without them.
"And then to hear [about] Tim Simona and just think what's the point here?
"We are professional athletes we've got to do a little bit more about this.
"There's got to be harsher penalties on it."
One explanation as to why players choose to do drugs is that they believe consuming certain illicit drugs, like cocaine, doesn't impair their ability to perform at training and on the field.
"Part of me thinks that's a bit of an excuse," Gallen said.
"Cocaine is illegal and we know it.
"People want to judge me ... I say that then they come out and say you can't say that, what about what happened at Cronulla.
"What happened at Cronulla is totally a different set of circumstances, a club is not going to give a group of players something illegal. It was a mistake and the players have paid for it.
"But on the other hand players know Cocaine is illegal.
"There is no black or white."
Knights star Nathan Ross, who featured alongside Gallen in City Origin's win over Country Origin in Mudgee, said Gallen's views on publicising first strikes were worth considering.
"He is a wise person that has been around football for a long time," Ross said.
"Leadership starts at the top and filters down so if the leaders of the game are saying that, then that's what should be done.
"Drugs isn't just a football problem, it's a society problem in all young people. It's not out of the ordinary now for apprentices or people in offices or people in the football world to go away and dabble in that sort of stuff.
"It affects you more because you are in the limelight but it's not just a rugby league problem."
But Ross claimed rugby league players are not being unfairly targeted.
"It's not unfair because we have made a choice to go down this path," he said.
"We've made a choice to be put in the public eye and we have also made a choice to be role models towards children.
"With that choice when you sign the contract, you know the rules so it's up to you as an adult to make an educated decision but people don't always make the right decisions."
He admitted the drug issue had taken the gloss off what should have been a showcase weekend for the code.
"I'm disappointed it got the media attention and took the shine off what was all in all, a pretty good weekend," he said.
"I think it was a good opportunity for us as footballers across the code to show how much pride we have in our heritage and how much pride we have in whatever jersey we were wearing.
"So it's a little upsetting."