NRL players, the punt and pokies

GAMBLING counsellor and Newcastle Knights great Ashley Gordon believes the NRL should be doing more to protect its players from the perils of poker machines and punting.

Mr Gordon and academics from Southern Cross University put forward a proposal to the NRL to conduct confidential research into player gambling, but NRL welfare and education manager Paul Heptonstall rejected it.

‘‘Anyone who has played or been around the industry knows there are numerous players suffering from a gambling addiction,’’ Mr Gordon said.

‘‘The problem can stem from having too much money or too much time on their hands and I know several players who use gambling as a way to escape.

‘‘They can sit down in front of a poker machine and zone out for a while, get away from the pressure of playing in the NRL.

‘‘We’ve given these players an opportunity, but the NRL hasn’t given them the skills and education to deal with what happens afterwards.’’

Mr Heptonstall said he was aware of the problem, but had advised Mr Gordon that the NRL didn’t have the funds available at the moment to support his initiative.

‘‘We told Ash we would help to facilitate access to players to do the research, but we wouldn’t be able to fund it this year,’’ Mr Heptonstall said.

Former Newcastle Knight Owen Craigie came clean last year about a serious addiction.

The Newcastle Knights declined to comment yesterday. A spokeswoman said it was an issue that should be directed to the NRL.

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