NRL 2022: Brisbane Broncos training interrupted by SIA drug testers

On the day anti-doping authorities descended on Broncos training for random testing, Kevin Walters made some huge positional decisions for the big game against the Bulldogs this weekend.

The Broncos’ first-win up against South Sydney was so impressive it has attracted the attention of anti-doping authorities.

Drug testers from Sport Integrity Australia, formerly known as the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority, descended on Red Hill on Tuesday in the wake of Brisbane’s stunning 11-4 upset win over the Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium.

Broncos coach Kevin Walters was so rapt with his side’s boilover of the Bunnies he rated Brisbane’s defensive display their best in two years.

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Call it sweet coincidence, but anti-doping authorities clearly agreed, with an army of five drug testers, wearing masks, dressed in blue shirts and holding red clipboards, arriving at the Clive Berghofer Centre as the Broncos wrapped up training.

The officers called out several Broncos players for random testing, with one anti-doping official approaching Brisbane young gun Ezra Mam as coach Kevin Walters and star playmaker Adam Reynolds looked on.

There is no suggestion the Broncos are guilty of any wrongdoing, with SIA regularly conducting random drug testing across all 16 NRL clubs.

Four SIA officials at Red Hill.
Four SIA officials at Red Hill.
Ezra Mam shares a laugh with an SIA official.
Ezra Mam shares a laugh with an SIA official.

Still, no NRL star ever enjoys being called out to perform a drugs test, with Broncos lock Kobe Hetherington happy not to be among the chosen ones.

“They are always hanging around, they are just doing their job,” said Hetherington, who returns against the Bulldogs on Sunday after missing Brisbane’s round-one defeat of South Sydney due to Covid.

“I have lost some weight after Covid, so I’m not big enough to get tested yet.”

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There was plenty of action at Red Hill on Tuesday, with Hetherington and fullback Tesi Niu set to return to the side, while $2.4 million recruit Reynolds has been cleared for take-off after Covid denied him his much-awaited Broncos debut against Souths.

Reynolds’ return has prompted a reshuffle, with Albert Kelly retaining his place in the halves at the expense of Billy Walters, who has been dropped to the bench to make way for the Broncos skipper at halfback.

Should Niu (hamstring) prove his fitness over the coming days, he will start at fullback in place of Jamayne Isaako, who trained with the Renegades on Tuesday.

Broncos coach Kevin Walters said he was rapt to have his star playmaker Reynolds back on deck as Brisbane shoot for a second consecutive win against the Bulldogs in Sydney.

“It’s great, it’s fantastic for Adam,” he said.

Adam Reynolds (L) will make his Broncos debut. Picture: Nigel Hallett
Adam Reynolds (L) will make his Broncos debut. Picture: Nigel Hallett

“He hasn’t played for us in the trials so it will be good to finally get him out there in a Broncos jersey. It’s good he is coming into a winning environment as well, but he just needs to get out there and play.

“You can see the effect he has on everyone when he is out there. He has come here to play plenty of footy so now he is back.”

Walters ended any speculation about nepotism at Red Hill by explaining the decision to relegate his son Billy, who started at five-eighth last week.

“I couldn’t split them really, Albert and Bill were both very good last week,” he said.

“But I went with ‘Alby’ because of his association last year with the club.

“He finished the season off well, so he deserved first crack in that position.

“It’s good to have depth and competition amongst players because that inspires guys to be better.”

Of Niu, Walters said: “He has to get through two more training sessions, but he looks to be in pretty good shape.

“I feel a bit sorry for Jamayne, he played well for us in a winning team but Tesi based on what he did last year earnt the right to get the jersey back.”

Originally published as NRL 2022: Brisbane Broncos training interrupted by SIA drug testers

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