Accused Titans to sue club if banned from taking the field
THE five Gold Coast Titans players facing drugs charges are planning on suing the club if they are banned from playing this season.
Sydney's Daily Telegraph reports that Titans hooker Beau Falloon and rookie outside back Jamie Dowling are hoping to play in their round one clash against Wests Tigers, just two days after their scheduled court appearance on March 5.
The three other current Titans players facing drugs charges - forwards Greg Bird, Dave Taylor and backline utility Kalifa Faifai Loa - are hoping to take the field in against Penrith in round two, two days after their court hearing on March 9.
All five players have been stood down by the club but are expected to plead not guilty to charges of supply and possession.
The Titans have launched their own investigation that could see players being sacked immediately for breaching the club's code of conduct, while the NRL could suspend them or de-register their contracts for bringing the game into disrepute.
Bird was already on his final warning with the Titans, after being stripped of his captaincy in December, after he was caught urinating in public during his wedding celebrations in Byron Bay, and Falloon, Dowling, Faifai Loa and Taylor face possible suspensions.
Four of the group, Bird, Taylor, Dowling, and Faifai Loa and former Titans squad member and co-accused Joe Vickery, are being represented by lawyer Campbell MacCallum, who said his clients intend on fighting any suspensions dished out by the NRL or Titans.
"If players are stood down after their first court appearance the inference you draw from that is they are presumed guilty and if that is the case there may be further ramifications for the club," MacCallum told the Daily Telegraph.
"Why should they be stood down before they have had a chance to defend themselves?
"The players have no control over when they will get that opportunity.
"They should be afforded the right to their employment up until the process is over.
"A review can be held once that process is over."
That legal process could take up to two years to go through court while the Queensland's Crime and Corruption Commission (QCCC) investigation is expected to run longer.
Rugby League's Players' Association is supporting the players' rights to remain available for team selection.
"The Players implicated are entitled to the presumption of innocence, which relates not only to the charges they are currently facing but also to any course of action their club might consider," a statement read.
There are suggestions the NRL will find it difficult to impose any bans following a not guilty plea after South Sydney centre Kirisome Auva'a plead guilty to domestic assault last year, before being allowed to continue playing throughout the Rabbitohs' premiership winning campaign.
Meanwhile, Queensland Reds star Karmichael Hunt has been stood down from training and playing before he also fronts court on March 5, on four charges of cocaine supply.