Why Brent Harvey is excited about North Melbourne

AFL games record holder and former North Melbourne great Brent Harvey believes his former club is building something exciting heading into season 2021.

Despite finishing 17th on the ladder last season and turning over a third of the playing list (15 players were either delisted or traded) in the off-season, Harvey believes there is warranted optimism ahead of season 2021.

“So there should be (optimism heading into the season), and I really mean that,” Harvey told Sam Edmund on SEN Mornings.

“I know a lot of people will roll their eyes and say you finished second-last last year, you lost Shaun Higgins, you lost Ben Brown, what’s your upside? The upside is we drafted six young kids who all look really, really impressive.

“We drafted well a couple of years ago when we brought in Bailey Scott, Curtis Taylor and Tarryn Thomas, and then you go to last years draft and look at Jack Mahony, Flynn Perez, Charlie Comben.

“You start adding these young guys, if they all play together then all of a sudden we become a young football club with a lot of enthusiasm.

“With good senior players also in Ben Cunnington, Jack Ziebell, Robbie Tarrant, these type of guys around, anything is possible.”

Harvey also believes the sweeping changes in the coaching department have made for a fresh and exciting feel within the four walls at Arden Street.

“With the new coaches coming in as well, there’s a whole new feeling around the club that feels unbelievable,” Harvey said.

“I’ve only met (new head coach) David Noble a few times, but I know he’s a very clever man and I know the boys absolutely adore him, so that’s a good start.”

North will begin its 2021 AAMI Community series against Adelaide at North Hobart Oval on February 28.

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Penrith Panthers star Brent Naden given one-month ban for positive cocaine test, NRL investigating bubble breach

Naden was sanctioned under new the World Anti-Doping Code’s new rules for 2021, which permit a one-month suspension for athletes who can prove the drug was taken recreationally. The athlete also must commit to undertaking a rehab program to qualify for the reduced suspension.

Naden did not contest the positive sample but told Sports Integrity Australia he took the drug the day ahead of the grand final, which aligned with the low levels found in his sample.

Panthers star Brent Naden returned a positive test for cocaine after the 2020 grand final.Credit:NRL Photos

Sports Integrity Australia came to the conclusion Naden would have not taken the drugs so far in advance if he had taken them to improve his performance in the grand final.

His ban was backdated to the day his provisional suspension was handed down on December 1, leaving Naden free to return to training and competition from January 1.


Penrith chief executive Brian Fletcher said Naden was expected to return to pre-season training next week.

The Panthers do not expect any heavy sanctions to come from the potential bubble breach and are happy for him to return to training while that investigation is ongoing.

“Our club acknowledges the penalty handed to Brent Naden by the NRL in relation to his use of a recreational drug,” he said. “Brent has come to understand the significant impact of his actions on his family, our club and the game of rugby league.

“He similarly understands how fortunate he is to have the opportunity to return to the NRL in 2021.”

The Panthers are also unhappy at suggestions in the media they were aware of Naden’s drug use before choosing to play him on grand final day, with the club considering its legal options.

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NRL 2020: Brent Naden suspension, Penrith Panthers, cocaine, grand final

The NRL has confirmed a one-month suspension for Panthers centre Brent Naden, backdated to the date of his provisional suspension.

Naden was provisionally suspended on December 1 after testing positive to cocaine on the night of the grand final loss to Melbourne.

It was established that Naden’s ingestion of cocaine was out-of-competition and not for performance-enhancing purposes.

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Penrith Panthers star Brent Naden to make return to training next week after sanction for positive cocaine test

Sport Integrity Australia ruled the one-month period be backdated to the date of his provisional suspension meaning he will be able to return to training and competition on January 1.


Penrith chief executive Brian Fletcher said Naden is expected to return to pre-season training next week.

“Our club acknowledges the penalty handed to Brent Naden by the NRL in relation to his use of a recreational drug,” he said. “Brent has come to understand the significant impact of his actions on his family, our club and the game of rugby league.

“He similarly understands how fortunate he is to have the opportunity to return to the NRL in 2021.”

Fletcher said Naden was “continuing to work” through his personal issues.

“We anticipate he will return to Panthers pre-season training following the completion of his suspension,” Fletcher said.

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James Tamou feels for former Penrith Panthers teammate Brent Naden

“My first thoughts, when I found out, was to make sure he was OK.

“Bubble life, I’ve got four young kids at home and I’m always busy. But the young guys who are single and go home to four walls and twiddle their thumbs, mentally it would have been tough. I’m not [condoning drug use], but there were a lot of things going on for ‘Nado’.”

Penrith Panthers centre Brent Naden tested positive to cocaine on grand final night.Credit:NRL Photos

Tamou inked a two-year deal with the Tigers in September, and knew the Panthers would struggle to retain all their talent.

He said Crichton, who is holding out for a better three-year deal, was worth every penny. He also hoped ”freak” Laurie – and Josh Mansour – would be released and given the chance to join him at the Tigers a year early.

“Because of the talent they have out there – I said this nearly the whole time I was out there about how the talent is unbelievable – I’m not surprised what is happening now,” Tamou said.

“It’s a shame because Penrith are such a good club but they can’t keep them all.

It’s about trying to keep the young ones together, which is going to be the problem for Penrith.

James Tamou

“A guy like Stephen Crichton is still so young but he’s definitely worth the money. I know ‘Critta’, he loves the boys and he loves Penrith. It’s not his fault because he deserves the money he can get. It’s about trying to keep the young ones together, which is going to be the problem for Penrith.”

Tamou spearheads a Tigers forward pack that includes Zane Musgrove, Shawn Blore, Stefano Utoikamanu, Alex Twal and Joe Ofahengaue. He soon discovered how powerful some of the younger players were during a Tuesday wrestling session.

A natural leader who skippered Penrith, Tamou has had no discussions about being appointed Tigers captain but was happy to fill the role if coach Michael Maguire wanted him to.

Tamou said the young Tigers reminded him a lot of the Panthers side from a couple of years ago. The two encounters between the clubs last season were ”scary” because you never knew what Maguire’s men would produce.


“If they were on, you knew you were up for a big game,” he said.

“They’re young, they’re eager for success, and you can tell that from being there just a couple of days.

“I’m excited. I knew a few of the boys already, but I wanted to get to know the other boys’ names, the structures, and by getting in early it will allow me to hit the ground running in the new year rather than doing the intros. I wanted to do right by the Tigers.”

Tamou will remain in the Penrith area and commute each day along the M4 Motorway.

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Andrew Abdo defends reducing rookie camp after Kurt Capewell, Brent Naden, Bronson Xerri incidents

“It might be that this was done virtually and there was slightly less time but that doesn’t mean that we’re going to invest less during the year” he said.

“That’s the beauty about technology: we don’t have to have everyone together in one place … there’s a number of check-ins that will happen next year through our health and education team.”

Budding NRL stars at last year’s camp, which featured role-play sessions and talks from Ian Roberts.Credit:James Alcock

Abdo said there would also be “additional training” provided by the NRL throughout the year.

“All that’s happened is instead of it being two concentrated days, this is a shorter session, but it was virtual,” he said. “But there will be more and more regular sessions and more regular contact with the players, which is probably, to be honest, potentially an even better model.”

The NRL’s Rookie Camp brings in players aged 18 to 24 on varying levels of NRL contracts, who will likely make their debut in first grade either next season or the season after.

This year’s camp discussed Bronson Xerri, who tested positive for steroids in March, Brent Naden, who was suspended after admitting he took cocaine the night before the grand final, and Kurt Capewell, who was last forced to admit having participated in a porn movie before his NRL career took off.

This year’s group also received a stern address from Abdo, who outlined the level of “responsibility” required to play first grade.

“The message I gave to them was that … they’re on the brink of becoming professional rugby league players and on one hand that’s a wonderful opportunity, and on the other hand, a lot of responsibility,” he said.

“Making sure everybody understands that they are role models and whether they like it or not, the standards that apply to us in professional sport, and especially to players, are higher than the public.”

Last year, the group was told they would be the first year affected by a new ruling that states under-20 players must take part in at least one day of work or study a week to be eligible for selection in a first-grade NRL side.


“From time to time, people make mistakes, that’s OK, but they need to understand the consequences of that,” Abdo said. “Equally you need to understand that ignorance is not an excuse.”

The NRL’s wellbeing and engagement manager Tony McFadyen said the responsibility of educating the players would be weighted more towards individual clubs going forward.

“We’ve got mandatory programs that we roll out anyway and it will be the staff at clubs doing it,” he said. “They’ve got now got a whole matrix of things that they can select, to use or to bring into their clubs.”

McFadyen said that while the education session had been reduced, the “key messaging” was still delivered to the players.

“We’ve got to hit some key things that the compliance side, but it’s also the way you do it, it’s about behaviour and behaviour change,” he said. “We don’t go in and say that you can’t do this, we say ‘look if you going do this there are responsibilities that come with that’.

“You’re responsible for your actions. So here’s the reason why making those decisions is so crucial.”

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Brent Naden could be first athlete to use new WADA code after positive cocaine test


The new code will come into force on January 1 and although he may not feel like it at the moment, the 24-year-old could be one of the luckiest athletes on the planet given the timing of the offence and the impending update to the WADA Code, the first such major amendment in six years.

Even if the test was returned in-competition, as will be the case for Naden given it was taken after the grand final on October 25, a three-month sanction will apply if the athlete can prove the use was out-of-competition in a social context and not intended to give them an advantage on the field of play.

Should Naden agree to take part in a treatment program approved by either the NRL or Sport Integrity Australia, the ban could even be reduced to one month.

“If the athlete can establish that any ingestion or use occurred out of competition and was unrelated to sport performance, then the period of ineligibility shall be three months,” WADA’s new code states.

“In addition, the period of ineligibility may be reduced to one month if the athlete or other person satisfactorily completes a substance of abuse treatment program approved by the Anti-Doping Organization.”

Given Naden’s violation occurred under the current, more stringent WADA rules, the question is why his case would be treated under the new Code, even if it is heard in front of the NRL anti-doping tribunal next year, which looks to be the likely timeline.

The answer lies in a principle that has been tested multiple times before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) that will see an athlete given the lesser of two penalties should the laws change during the period it takes for the matter to appear before the relevant anti-doping panel.

“Technically, the 2021 Code only comes into play as of 1 January 2021,” said Professor Jack Anderson, an expert in sports law at the University of Melbourne. “Strictly speaking, this means that any anti-doping rule violation case which is pending should be governed by the anti-doping rules in effect at the time the alleged rule violation occurred.

“However, under the new 2021 Code, the anti-doping panel would have the flexibility to hear the case under the 2021 Code by way of what the Code calls the principle of lex mitior… if the law relevant to the offence has been amended, the less severe law should be applied. This approach has been upheld many times at CAS.


“Given all of the above… and given the difference in severity between the old code and the new… he will be dealt with under the more flexible terms of the 2021 Code.”

A one-month ban would be an extraordinary result for Naden given the far harsher sanction he would have faced should the alleged violation had taken place even weeks earlier. If he had faced the NRL anti-doping tribunal this year, he would have had almost no wiggle room when it comes to his time out of the sport.

But another anti-doping and sports integrity expert, Catherine Ordway from the University of Melbourne, said it may not be quite so cut and dry and the NRL panel could still take a firmer stance on Naden. Any finding from that panel can be appealed by Sport Integrity Australia should they be unsatisfied with the sanction.

“The legal position is the tribunal would be expected to take into the account those changes that have been made. So how they do that is another matter. They will be trying, I imagine, particularly if there is some evidence he has any sort of addiction, to bend over backwards to be as flexible as possible,” Ordway said.

“You could also get a tribunal that says nope, hardline, you are under the 2020 code, you were aware of that code, you’re a role model and take a harder line. He’s rolling the dice in that sense.”

Naden has followed the lead of some of the rugby league’s biggest names including Jarryd Hayne, Dylan Walker, Bronson Xerri, Trent Barrett and Shane Flanagan, in engaging Qutami.

Qutami, who has over 25 years of legal experience, has previously represented other high-profile clients including Israel Folau and Salim Mehajer.

On Thursday, Qutami was in court Wollongong Local Court to defend Tristan Sailor after the former Dragons player was charged with aggravated sexual assault. At the bail application hearing, Sailor was granted a bail variation to report to police three times a week instead of five.

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NRL 2021: Brent Naden cocaine test, Penrith Panthers, NRL Grand Final 2020, Phil Gould

Phil Gould admits he does not understand why Panthers centre Brent Naden allegedly played in the grand final with cocaine in his system.

However, he did reveal that from his time in Naden’s life he has come to know the 24-year old’s struggles with mental health and is adamant there is “nothing malicious” about his actions.

Naden was provisionally suspended on Tuesday after he returned a positive-A-sample for metabolites of cocaine.

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Naden failed drug test


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NRL 2020: Brent Naden tests positive to cocaine, grand final, Panthers vs Storm

Penrith Panthers star Brent Naden has been provisionally suspended after returning a positive test to cocaine after a test on the night of the grand final.

The 24-year-old has endured a bumpy road over the last month. After the Panthers’ grand final loss to the Storm he approached the club to reveal he had been suffering personal issues and he entered himself into a rehabilitation program.

He has since left the rehabilitation clinic but is still being treated as an outpatient.

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The Daily Telegraph reports Naden was one of five players who were tested on grand final night.

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Penrith Panthers centre Brent Naden returns positive test for cocaine from NRL grand final night

Penrith Panthers player Brent Naden has been provisionally suspended after testing positive to cocaine after the NRL grand final in October.

The Panthers have confirmed Naden returned a positive A-sample following a test conducted by Sport Integrity Australia.

Cocaine is prohibited in competition by the World Anti-Doping Agency and the NRL’s Anti-Doping Policy.

The 24-year-old centre is banned from participating in any WADA compliant sport while he waits for his B-sample to be analysed.

In November, Naden sought professional help to deal with a number of personal issues by entering a voluntary rehabilitation program.

The NRL has spoken with Naden and advised him of the support services available to him.

“As previously reported, Brent approached the club following the 2020 NRL Grand Final to seek help with a number of personal issues. At that time he admitted to the use of a recreational drug,” a Panthers statement read.

“Panthers informed the NRL of Brent’s admission and with the support of the club, he commenced a voluntary rehabilitation program at a private health facility.

Brent Naden after scoring a try for Penrith in round one of 2020.(AAP: Craig Golding)

The club says Naden has made positive strides since his time at the facility.

“Brent recently completed that program and continues to address his personal issues with the support of his family and Panthers staff.

“Working closely with Brent through this process, the club believes he has the capacity to overcome his personal issues and realise his potential.

“Panthers will continue to provide Brent and his family the support they need moving forward.

“In accordance with the World Anti-Doping Code, the club, Brent, his family and manager can make no further comment at this time.”

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