Another alcohol-inflicted hangover looms for the NRL, with Cronulla’s Valentine Holmes identified as the player at the centre of an Emerging Origin squad controversy that might embroil up to six Queensland hopefuls.
Queensland Rugby League boss Peter Betros told AAP two players – later identified as Holmes and Melbourne’s Cameron Munster – would be blacklisted by Maroons’ selectors for a year for breaching curfew at the weekend camp in Brisbane.
However, up to six players who attended the camp were being investigated by the QRL after reports several broke curfew and Holmes was involved in a Fortitude Valley incident with police.
Days after Mitchell Pearce apologised for his Australia Day bender, the NRL integrity unit is investigating Holmes after the QRL and Cronulla had each issued a statement on Monday, identifying him as the player involved in “an alleged incident”.
It is believed the camp’s 20-strong squad were told not to go out after returning from a team dinner on Saturday night. However, up to six players later left for the Fortitude Valley nightclub precinct with Holmes allegedly involved in the incident with police.
New Queensland coach Kevin Walters had rammed home what had been expected from his Origin players just hours earlier at the camp – his first in charge of the Maroons.
“Our club has been made aware of an alleged incident involving Valentine Holmes amongst other players during a Queensland Emerging Origin training camp last weekend,” a Cronulla statement said. “We are conducting our own inquiries into this matter in addition to assisting the QRL with their investigation.”
QRL managing director Robert Moore confirmed Holmes and Munster were the banned players.
“Cronulla Sharks player Valentine Holmes broke curfew during the Emerging Origin camp and is subject to further investigation by the QRL and NRL integrity unit,” Moore said. “Melbourne Storm player Cameron Munster has been excluded solely for breaking curfew.”
Moore did not rule out bans against more players “if they were identified as breaking curfew”.
Walters was furious. “On Saturday afternoon, we sat down as a group and spoke about the importance of making the right choices,” he said in a QRL statement. “Regrettably, there were some players who made poor choices after we had wrapped up the official part of that day’s program.”
Betros said it was the worst possible first impression Holmes and Munster could have made with Walters. “The Queensland Rugby League won’t be selecting them for anything for 12 months,” Betros told AAP on Monday.
“It’s a massive setback for those players. It’s the only way they will learn. Kevin is very disappointed in them. He is strong on discipline. He feels those players don’t want to buy into what he is doing with Queensland. They can go back to club land.”
Newcastle’s Dane Gagai was also banned for 12 months for skipping a training session at the 2014 Emerging Origin camp. He had to wait until game three last year to make his Origin debut for Queensland.