Sandor Earl’s ASADA ban is over.
Tuesday, August 29 2017 brings to an end a four year exile from the sporting arena.
At the time rugby league went in crisis when Earl rolled over to the governing drug agency, admitting to investigators that he had used and transported the banned peptide CJC-1295 and other unidentified prohibited substances.
It was a difficult time for the pin-up boy of rugby league who was sent into the wilderness, without any contact from the NRL. Earl was set to move to French Rugby club Pau on good money. Not only did he lose the big cash but also bore the brunt of social and print media furore being labelled a ‘drug cheat’.
That anger hurled at Earl changed very quickly to empathy after the handing down of minor penalties for Cronulla Sharks players involved in Stephen Dank’s program. To this day Dank is yet to face the music and the longer it goes, the less chance that will happen.
Martin Kennedy was also implicated and handed a two year, nine month ban back in early 2016 which effectively has ended his NRL career. He was lucky to have escaped the same sort of public humiliation suffered by Earl.
Earl has worked hard to keep fit and make some money, firstly in Thailand and more recently in Melbourne. Keeping a positive attitude along the way which is admirable given his bleak predicament.
Turning 28 this September the speculation is that Earl will land a contract with minor premiers Melbourne Storm. If true, he couldn’t go to a better club with a reputation of nurturing and making the average NRL player into a quality asset. We will learn more about his future in the coming weeks.
The game’s landscape has changed in the past four years.
Melbourne seem to be the constant as they continue to dominate the game with a 66% win percentage, five percentage points ahead of the second-best Roosters. The Knights sitting at rock bottom with 31% just ahead of Wests Tigers at 35%.
James Maloney was in his first season at the Roosters in 2013 and the NRL’s top point scorer as he guided them to a premiership. This season it looks like Nathan Cleary has a jump on the competition, along the way becoming the youngest player to score 200 points in a season.
In 2013 James McManus, David Williams and David Simmons were equal top tryscorers – all now in retirement. Alex Johnson and Suliasi Vunivalu are tied on 22 – Vunivalu with that amazing record of 45 tries in 43 games.
Four years on, Earl too is a changed man. Missing from the comeback will be the poster boy image replaced by a steely determination to make up for the last four years.
Statistics supplied by Chris Matthews-Darby