“I certainly had discussions with the CEO of the Sharks, Dino, as to why it took six months,” V’landys said. “We will certainly be enquiring about that. There may be a credible explanation and we look forward to hearing it.
“The management will certainly be writing to ASADA. If the club and the fans ask us, we have an obligation to query it. There may be some very logical explanation and we hope that’s the case.”
Riolo issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon on Xerri’s behalf.
“I’m devastated but I’m bound by the system so there is not much more I can say at this stage,” Xerri said in the statement.
“There is a process in place that I am required to follow. I’m shattered I’m not playing with the boys this weekend and I wish them all the best for Saturday.”
The statement went on to say the provisional suspension is not an admission of guilt or wrongdoing and that Xerri will have the opportunity to have his B sample analysed. That is a process that normally takes weeks rather than months.
Xerri was informed of his test result two days before the NRL season restart and hours before he was due to be named in winless Cronulla’s line-up for the clash against Wests Tigers at Bankwest Stadium on Saturday.
Mezzatesta was confident the latest drugs scandal to rock the code was restricted to one player and defended the club’s culture after the peptides scandal from the 2011 season and Ben Barba’s positive test to cocaine in 2016.
“There’s no issue here at the club,” Mezzatesta said. “Although there’s a history, we’re very confident with the protocols we have in place, with the systems we have in place.
“It’s unfortunate that this matter has arisen for a young individual associated with our club. Our priority now is his welfare and the support of that young individual. We certainly have no concerns about our club at all, not at this time and certainly not in the future.
“I’ve spoken to Bronson and spoken to his family. He’s obviously very shaken, he’s got a long road ahead. He needs to take some advice, but he’s fully aware that he has our full support.”
The 19-year-old was considered a future State of Origin star and attacking weapon the Sharks could build their future around. Had the club known of his plight, it’s unlikely they would have released Morris to the Roosters.
“That’s a matter really for the NRL to take up with ASADA, but it does seem like a long process,” Mezzatesta said of the time frame.
“Our hope is that the process isn’t anywhere near as long to conclude. It could be more damaging not only for the individual and club, but the code itself. We should be celebrating the return to the game and that’s what we should be focusing and concentrating on.
“That’s why we’d hope there’s an expedient outcome for all concerned.
“It’s an interesting question [about Morris] and that’s one of the reasons why we’re quite disappointed in the length of time that it’s taken to notify not only the NRL but the club. Things may have been completely different for us.
“So absolutely, had we been notified early, we may have well taken things very differently in our approach to our playing roster.”
Otago University professor of physiology Alison Heather said the six-month delay would likely have been the result of ASADA taking multiple tests over time to build up Xerri’s biological passport.
Due to Xerri being a relatively new player, ASADA would not have had profiles handy to compare against the suspicious result, she said.
“I think this guy [Paul Gallen] that slammed ASADA he doesn’t really understand how the testing work is done by ASADA. In fact, it is a good example about how the testing works,” she said.
Sports lawyer Catherine Ordway, who specialises in sports integrity and has previously worked as a senior executive for ASADA, also believed this was the reason for the delay.
“I don’t buy into any of this conspiracy theory whatsoever,” she said. “The point is that ASADA is an independent body and they work really closely in partnership with sports, including the NRL and they’ve had a really strong relationship with the NRL for years.”
Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Sarah is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.