The drugs scandal rocking Queensland sport deepened on Sunday with four more men, including State of Origin stars Greg Bird and Dave Taylor, facing cocaine supply charges.
The Gold Coast Titans held a three-hour crisis meeting following the NRL club’s return from a pre-season trial in Cairns with Bird, Taylor and outside back Kalifa Faifai Loa all receiving notices to appear in court from Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission (QCCC).
The trio, as well as former Titan Joe Vickery, all face charges of supplying cocaine as part of the same QCCC investigation that already implicated Titans’ hooker Beau Falloon, fringe first-grader Jamie Dowling and star Queensland Reds recruit Karmichael Hunt.
All five current Titans players have been stood down and club chief executive Graham Annesley has confirmed they will have to plead their cases to the board to avoid having their contracts ripped up.
Annesley said regardless of the outcome of the legal cases against the players, they could be found in breach of contract for bringing the club into disrepute.
It means Queensland forward Taylor and NSW star Bird may find their NRL careers over.
Bird, 30, appears in most jeopardy having already been placed on a final warning in December after he was fined and stripped of the club’s co-captaincy following a public urination scandal in Byron Bay.
“It was damaging on Friday, it’s more damaging today,” Annesley said.
“Each of these revelations places the club in a more difficult position.
“I’ve kind of run out of words to explain it. It’s incredibly difficult for everyone to deal with, all the good people associated with this club.
“To be constantly dragged through these kind of scandals is incredibly difficult for the club.”
Annesley said a decision on the players’ future could take “a little bit of time” because of the uncertainty over the case against them and what is alleged to have occurred.
He anticipated the meetings with the board should take place within the next couple of weeks.
Taylor, Bird, Faifai Loa and Vickery are all expected to face Southport Magistrates Court on March 9 while Dowling, Falloon, Hunt and an unnamed 22-year-old woman are due in court on March 5.
Sunday’s revelations arose with the club arriving to chaotic scenes at Gold Coast Airport following their 30-10 loss to North Queensland in a pre-season match on Saturday night.
About 30 die-hard fans cheered the players and tried to block the media but it was clear there were more issues ahead as Taylor was whisked by officials into a waiting car.
Both Bird and Titans captain Nate Myles also ran a media gauntlet as they left the airport.
Given the Titans have no training base following a decision to cut their ties with the prestigious Southport School following Friday’s revelations and are also still without a major sponsor, questions are being asked about the club’s future.
But Annesley said he remained committed to the club, as does benefactor Darryl Kelly, and that the NRL has pledged its support to the Titans throughout the past 48 hours.
“The club will recover, I have no qualms about that,” he said.
“This is the sixth largest city in the country, in the middle of rugby league heartland, it deserves to have an NRL club and we’re doing everything we can to deliver that.”
With the QCCC refusing to divulge its information to the club, Annesley said he believed Sunday’s notices would be the last to be delivered.
“I’m not getting a lot of information from the authorities, I’m cautious about this, but to the best of my knowledge this is it,” he said.