Former South Sydney Rabbitohs star Sam Burgess says rehab has changed his life

There was no deal

In one of his final acts as a free man, Jarryd Hayne blamed the media for losing what he claimed was a $500,000 deal with the Dragons for the 2019 NRL season. On so many levels, this said it all.

I checked with people at the Dragons who had intimate knowledge of the Hayne negotiations. There was no contract about to be signed, as Hayne claimed. There had been internal discussions about signing him, but it had not reached the stage of a contract being drawn up. It didn’t even get close to that.

Daniel Son, Jarryd Hayne and Corey Norman. Credit:Instagram

Hayne was an option for the Dragons, but if he thought a contract was waiting, he was very wrong. Instead the club signed Corey Norman, who was one of the last players to see Hayne before he was sentenced at Newcastle District Court on Thursday to five years and nine months in prison. Hayne was found guilty in March of two counts of sexual intercourse without consent. The former league star has lodged an appeal.

A picture of Norman with Hayne was posted on Instagram (pictured above). It is hard to understand why Norman would pose with Hayne days before he was jailed. Supporting a friend is one thing, but why post it?

Norman’s club has been torn apart by Jack de Belin’s court case. It played a big part in the demise of former coach Paul McGregor. It also led to others resigning from their positions. The Dragons have reprimanded Norman for posting the picture. Posing with Hayne was a dumb thing to do for a bloke who is off contract and looking for a new deal.

Talk of the town

There was an interesting catch-up after the Storm-Sharks match last Friday night in Melbourne. Cronulla chief executive Dino Mezzatesta and Storm coach Craig Bellamy were seen in deep conversation. The Sharks, of course, are very interested in securing the services of Bellamy in an overseeing football manager role.

With anger still swirling in the Shire about the axing of former coach John Morris, the club needs a big signing. South Sydney’s Adam Reynolds is likely to make up his mind early this week about whether he will take up an offer from Cronulla or Brisbane. The Broncos’ three-year offer still has appeal.

Sharks star Toby Rudolf, also off contract, has met with incoming coach Craig Fitzgibbon but, like any quality player, wants to know who the halfback will be.


Tigers don’t buy it

The bosses of Wests Ashfield love the passion of Tigers great Benny Elias. They respect everything he did for Balmain. It is the only reason they met with him on Tuesday to discuss a proposal to buy Wests Tigers. They have no intention of selling to Elias or anyone else.

When it comes to the Tigers, internal drama is never far away. Recently removed board member Mick Liubinskas has maintained a dignified silence on what happened. However, this Facebook post gives a fair insight into what he is thinking.

“This is what you get when politics in football clubs kicks in,” he wrote alongside the picture above.

Josh spice

The situation Josh Hodgson finds himself in at the Raiders is interesting. While he has not been able to recapture the form he showed when the Raiders made the grand final in 2019, the issues go a lot deeper. There have been reports of some harsh talks with coach Ricky Stuart.

When Hodgson was injured last year and watching from the sidelines, there was a lot of praise for replacements Tom Starling and Siliva Havili. The theme was how well the Raiders attack was functioning and how well halves George Williams and Jack Wighton were playing. I have been told that Hodgson was miffed that the playmakers were not publicly vocal about missing playing with him. When Stuart talked to Hodgson, he discussed getting the ball to the halves more quickly.

Roosters hierarchy go extra mile for Suaalii

Joseph Suaalii has a two-year deal at the Roosters with options in his favour for another two seasons. But during the past week there were two acts – one public and one private – that show how invested the club is in its teen superstar.

On Thursday, in pouring rain, Roosters heavyweights – chairman Nick Politis and board members Mark Fennessy, Peter Newton and Andrew Crawford – travelled to Penrith to see what the Suaalii family does for the charity group ReachOut NSW. They saw people arrive from all parts of Sydney and as far away as Wollongong to be fed by the charity, with the Suaalii family leading the way.

The Roosters bosses were blown away. They were not aware of this side of their star recruit.
For a family that has been through a lot in recent times, with their son in the public eye day after day, it would have meant something to the Suaalii family that Politis used the morning to learn about their charity – and their family.

Politis was genuinely touched and emotional when he recounted the experience to his confidantes.
Then there were the scenes in the dressing room last Saturday night after the win over the Knights that was marred by the loss of Brett Morris and Lindsay Collins to season-ending – and potentially career-ending – knee injuries. Suaalii sat beside the Morris twins in the dressing room. He saw what a rugby league career meant to a great of the game – someone twice his age – and he saw what it meant to Morris to be part of the club.


For a teenager who wanted to keep his options open, it would be hard not to see that as a defining moment for a young man learning about his place in professional sport. If and when it comes to signing a new deal, the events of the past week are sure to be etched in his mind.

Unwelcome Matt

Broncos front-rower Matt Lodge could be forced out of Brisbane and he has been trying to generate some interest from the Roosters. But the tricolours haven’t forgotten something that happened a few years back.

The Roosters were prepared to provide Lodge a path back to the big time, but it had to be via Wyong, the Roosters’ feeder team at the time. Lodge didn’t like that idea one bit, so instead he went to Brisbane after telling the Roosters coaching staff he didn’t want to drive from western Sydney to Wyong each day. The Roosters have not forgotten that.

It’s hard to imagine him fitting into the culture created by tricolours coach Trent Robinson. The fact that Brisbane are willing to stump up $1 million to see him play somewhere else says a lot.

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Parents push for rehab facility in Mildura after son’s death

When Geoffrey Clemence took his life in November 2019, his mother Cheryl Clemence felt mostly anger.

She was angry at the contributing influences in Geoffrey’s life, and at a health system in Mildura that she says let her son down.

“I wasn’t shocked. I thought for a long time I had expected it,” she said.

“It was just anger — I just remember anger.” 

Two months earlier, Mrs Clemence found her son after his first suicide attempt.

Geoffrey was struggling with an addiction to alcohol, a habit that worsened after he kicked an addiction to ice years earlier.

Geoffrey’s father, Simon Clemence, a former police inspector and Mayor of the Mildura Rural City Council, said the extent of his son’s addiction was “devastating”.

“He went from being an ice addict to an alcoholic. He was a full-blown alcoholic,” Mr Clemence said.

“He came over to help me with the shed one morning and he’d just be drunk.

“You’d think, ‘Wow, it’s 10 in the morning.’ Something was really wrong.

“It was absolutely devastating. We had so many conversations with him about our concerns. Every other night we’d be talking to him about how devastating it was.”

Mr Clemence said when Geoffrey tried to receive support, he often felt like “just another number” in the mental health system, and that there was no rehabilitation facility to help with his alcohol addiction.

The coroner’s report for Geoffrey Clemence noted that Mildura had the highest rate of suicide of any regional Victorian local government area from 2010 to 2019, with a rate of 35.5 suicides per 100,000 residents.

It added that substance misuse was the most prevalent stressor in the area, a concern compounded by a lack of drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities, and by the region’s geographic isolation impeding access to other services.

The closest rehabilitation facility is in Bendigo, a four-and-a-half-hour drive away.

Mr Clemence pushed for years for a drug and alcohol rehab facility in Mildura during his two terms as Mayor of the Mildura Rural City Council.

He said a business case for a facility was developed in 2018, but the project was continually stalled.

“You’d go to meeting after meeting after meeting trying to get data, or an update on data. You’d go to so many meetings but nobody could ever do what they were supposed to do,” he said.

“I would be pulling my hair out, just so frustrated.

“Geoff’s issues were only magnifying my resolve.”

Sunraysia Community Health’s Simone Heald said a number of stakeholders were preparing a business case again in 2020 before it was “pushed to the side” by the pandemic.

They have reconvened and are again working on a business case.

Mildura MP Ali Cupper has campaigned for a 30-bed facility and wants to see a commitment from the state government.

“When you look at facilities, you see a glaring gap in the state’s north west,” Ms Cupper told Parliament in March.

“Our suicide rates are 40 per cent above the state average. Family violence is 155 per cent higher.

“It’s clear that Mildura needs a culturally appropriate, dedicated 30-bed service.”

In a statement, a Victorian Department of Health spokesperson said more mental health services were being brought to Mildura but did not answer questions about the future of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility.

“We know we must do more to support Victorians with mental health issues and recognise our vital mental health services are under pressure to meeting increasing demand in regional and metropolitan areas,” the spokesperson said.

Mrs Clemence believed Geoffrey was ready to change if he had access to professional support.

“I think he was sick of it — I found a duffle bag full of empty bottles in his room one day. And he said, ‘I’m so ashamed’. That was really hard to hear,” she said.

“He was ready to do something about it. He did try to get off it. If the opportunities had been there, if the right facilities had been there, he might have been successful.

“But the facilities just aren’t here, and our boy is dead.”

Mrs Clemence also believed that if Geoffrey had lived to hear that his daughter Madison was pregnant things might have been different.

“It was only six months or so later [she became pregnant] — family was everything to him. I really think if he had known, he might still be here today,” she said.

Mr Clemence believed a facility would save lives.

“If we had those services here, and we had been able to get Geoff into some of those services, he could still be here today. But he’s not,” he said.

“Suicide is devastating — the devastation is remarkable. So if you help that one person, then you fix a much bigger problem.

“When you treat one person, you’re really treating a lot of people.”

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Former participants of NT rehab program say many will be left without support when funding is cut

Shay Hodder hasn’t used methamphetamine for 18 months and is reunited with her family.

But she’s worried others recovering from addiction will not receive the second chance she got, because the Northern Territory government is cutting $2 million in funding to a rehabilitation program for people on parole and on bail.

“There’s a lot of people out there who need help,” she said.

“There’s a lot of broken families that need to get back together … it’s not fair on us, it’s not fair on the community.”

Ms Hodder believed she would have ended up in jail if she had not been able to participate in the government-funded Family Circles COMMIT program delivered by the FORWAARD Aboriginal Corporation, which is one of the organisations affected by the funding cuts.

The program provides mediation and education to recovering addicts and families, so they can rebuild a relationship and strategies to support each other during rehabilitation.

“There’s clients who want to come in here, wanting to get better,” said Ms Hodder, who is now a caseworker with FORWAARD.

The government’s cuts to the program have been criticised by welfare groups and the chair of the NT Parole Board, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Southwood, who said they would frustrate efforts to reduce incarceration rates and improve community safety.

Funding cuts confirmed

The government has confirmed about $2 million will be cut from the program by June, with almost half of the funding ending this month.

It said in a statement, the decision was based on a review of the number of beds and services used by participants in the program and further funding would be considered during the 2021 budget cabinet process.

Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Selena Uibo said people on parole would have access to other support when the programs end and existing clients would finish their treatments in June.

“People eligible for COMMIT will continue to be offered support through the Department of Health’s alcohol and other drugs programs,” she said.

Attorney-General Selena Uibo said support will still be available through Department of Health programs.(

ABC News: Laetitia Lemke


But in a letter to the Alcohol and Other Drugs Association NT (AADANT) last December, Health Minister Natasha Fyles acknowledged the demand on alcohol treatment services and the pressure that would be placed on bed availability with COMMIT funding cuts.

AADANT executive officer Peter Burnheim said a budgeted evaluation of the COMMIT program was never completed.

He was concerned there were no other specialised services for parole clients.

FORWAARD Aboriginal Corporation will lose almost $600,0000 under the cuts, meaning the Family Circles program will end this month and nine rehabilitation beds will close by the end of June.

“[That’s] about 38 per cent of our total programming … it’s a real shame … there is nowhere quite as unique as the Family Circles program.”

A man looking at the camera
FORWAARD chief executive Stephen Versteegh said five staff members could lose their jobs.(

ABC News: Hamish Harty


Mr Versteegh said a letter from Ms Uibo stated the organisation’s programs were successful but the government had other funding priorities.

In December, Justice Southwood raised concerned about cuts to COMMIT in a four-page statement, saying 278 people had been successfully released since the program began in 2017.

“If COMMIT has meant that 278 offenders … spent 12 months less time in prison [which is a fair anecdotal estimate] that represents a saving of $13 million over three years,” he said.

“The reduction in the capacity of non-government organisations to provide residential rehabilitation programs … will once again add to the very high rates of incarceration of Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory,” he said.

Road to recovery

Ms Hodder said she wanted to speak publicly about her own road to recovery to highlight concern over the funding cuts.

She said life recovering from addiction more than a year ago left her isolated and some of the people closest to her didn’t understand her struggles.

Ms Hodder said it was challenging confronting her past traumas as part of recovery.

She said her COMMIT caseworker helped her reconnect with her family so they could understand “what alcohol and drugs do to you.”

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Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews discharged from the Alfred to start rehab after fall

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has been discharged from hospital to start his “rehabilitation journey” after a nasty fall left him with a spinal injury.

Last Tuesday morning, Andrews slipped on wet stairs at a Mornington Peninsula holiday rental while getting ready for work.

The 48-year-old has since shared a photo to social media from a hospital bed where he is recuperating from broken ribs and vertebrae.

On Monday, The Alfred hospital put out a statement confirming Andrews had been discharged to start his “significant period of rehabilitation”.

“Mr Andrews has responded well without surgery so far, and the work to improve his strength and mobility must now begin,” The Alfred’s director of trauma services Professor Mark Fitzgerald said.

“As the rehabilitation journey gets underway, we will watch closely for any signs of worsening spinal stability or alignment, as well as the development of other complications.

“When upright, a brace is worn to stabilise the spine, maintain alignment, and help to control pain. Physiotherapy treatment is key at this time.

“Any deterioration may lead to a need for surgery down the track, however we are gradually progressing in the right direction at this time.”

Victoria’s Acting Premier James Merlino admitted he will be in the role for “some time” and could step in for the next National Cabinet meeting, which is almost four weeks away.

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‘Appalling’: Rehab centre’s reputation ‘considerably damaged’ after fraud

THE fraudulent loss of $250,000 from a drug and alcohol rehabilitation service in Tennant Creek – money which was intended for the delivery of treatment services – saw the organisation’s clients treated in an appalling way, according to the CEO.

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Former BRADAAG CEO jailed for defrauding Tennant Creek rehab service of nearly $250,000

The former head of a remote Northern Territory town’s only drug and alcohol rehabilitation service has been sentenced to more than five years in jail for defrauding the organisation of nearly $250,000.

Stewart Naylor, 60, was the director and then CEO of Barkly Region Alcohol and Drug Abuse Advisory Group (BRADAAG) for nine years.

He pleaded guilty in November to seven counts of obtaining benefit by deception.

BRADAAG runs the only sobering-up shelter in the town of Tennant Creek, which has struggled with alcohol-related social issues for several years.

The organisation also runs rehabilitation and education programs in the community.

Justice Judith Kelly told the Alice Springs Supreme Court during sentencing on Wednesday that Naylor’s offending was a serious breach of public trust, “particularly when the money is taken from an organisation like BRADAAG, where it was intended to benefit the most vulnerable members of our community”.

The court heard Naylor’s offending stretched over eight years and ended when the NT Department of Health announced it would be conducting a review of the service in 2016.

Justice Kelly said Naylor’s theft was “elaborate” and he showed “no hesitation in continuing to steal … over a number of years”.

She said Naylor claimed more than $160,000 of fraudulent overtime, including for periods when he was at a casino in Alice Springs and on overseas holidays.

Naylor also used corporate credit cards to purchase more than $50,000 worth of goods for his own benefit between 2013 and 2016.

The court heard Naylor believed he had a gambling addiction.

Justice Kelly sentenced Naylor to five years and three months in prison, with a non-parole period of two years and eight months.

The prosecution did not seek reparations.

Naylor was sentenced in the Alice Springs Supreme Court on Wednesday.(ABC Alice Springs: Mitchell Abram)

After reading a letter Naylor submitted to the court, Justice Kelly said she did not believe he was “genuinely remorseful”.

“Although you say you cannot apologise enough for the pain you caused and you say that you will live in regret for many years, you follow that up immediately by saying, ‘I ask that when handing down my sentence, that you do with minimum penalties,'” she said.

“The rest of the letter is a largely self-serving account of your work and life.”

Outside of court, the current CEO of BRADAAG, Pauline Reynolds, said it had taken years for the organisation to recover following Naylor’s tenure.

“It cost us our reputation,” she said.

“The people of Tennant Creek that were attending alcohol rehab … were living in conditions and being treated in a way that was absolutely appalling.”

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Essendon Bombers’ David Zaharakis rehab remains on track

Forgotten Essendon veteran David Zaharakis is building up his running in rehab a month out from the Bombers pre-season practice match against Geelong, as he recovers from off-season posterior cruciate ligament surgery.

It remains unclear when the 30-year-old will be back on the track for the Bombers, having recovered from the quad injury that finished his season in August. However, a club source confirmed he was making solid progress.

The Bombers will not rush Zaharakis back as he looks to find a role to extend his career beyond the end of this season.

David Zaharakis. Credit:Getty Images

Meanwhile, key position player Michael Hurley is on the mend from an infected leg that saw him visit hospital during the week. Yet the Bombers are uncertain when he will return as he looks to adapt to a forward role this season.

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Rowell “stronger than ever” following shoulder rehab

Number one draft pick Matt Rowell is on the cusp of re-joining Gold Coast’s main training group as he nears the end of a prolonged rehab period on his troublesome shoulder.

Rowell, who burst onto the scene in the first four rounds of 2020 before succumbing to a season-ending shoulder injury, is set to be welcomed back to full training after a stint of rehabilitation which has impressed onlookers at the Suns.

Gold Coast football boss Jon Haines said he couldn’t help but be excited to see the 19-year-old fully train again next week ahead of the start of the 2021 season in March.

“He’s had an unbelievable rehabilitation period,” he said on SEN Mornings.

“His level of diligence and dedication to the shoulder has been just outstanding, it’s stronger than ever – before Christmas we had to hold him back and give him a bit of a break.

“He’ll certainly hit the ground running with the main group next week, we can’t wait to get him back into training with the group fully fit and Matt (Rowell) is super excited about how this year looks for him.

Exciting young forward Izak Rankine also impressed in patches last season, kicking 12 games from 12 matches.

Much has been made about how head coach Stuart Dew should manage the prodigious talent and Haines said it was vital he was able to show his natural skill within the confines of the overall team structure.

“From our point of view, we’ll certainly lean on letting him show his natural flair,” he said.

“That’s what his teammates love and that’s what we love about him as well, we don’t want to bang it out of young players, particular Izak (Rankine) who’s understanding and feel for the game is as good as anyone from the last few drafts.

“We’re really keen to foster that and get him to understand the broader structural implications of the team, but we want him to bring his strengths as much as he possibly can.”

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Man accused of Lismore servo robbery wants bail for rehab

A man charged in relation to an alleged armed robbery at a Lismore service station has been denied bail after he failed to get admitted into rehab.

Kieren George Cotton, 27, was arrested at gunpoint in Brewster St in October after the alleged robbery at the Liberty service station on Ballina Rd.

Police will allege they were called to the service station about 2.50am on October 17 after reports of a robbery.

Mr Cotton allegedly entered the store, produced a firearm, threatened staff, and demanded a 19-year-old employee give him cash.

He then allegedly left the store with “significant amount of money” and was later arrested while trying to enter a taxi.

Police allege they arrested Mr Cotton after he fitted the description of the offender, and found a large amount of money in the alleged offender’s underwear, according to court documents.

Mr Cotton was charged with robbery while armed with a dangerous weapon and robbery while armed with an offensive weapon.

Mr Cotton appeared before Lismore Local Court via video link from custody in Clarence Correctional Facility on Tuesday to apply for bail.

The court heard the weapon used in the alleged robbery was a gel blaster.

Mr Cotton’s defence solicitor Rachel Thomas said her client had a history of schizophrenia and a limited criminal history.

The court heard he’d been admitted into the Lismore Base Hospital for mental health treatment about a week prior to the alleged incident and had failed to continue taking his prescribed medication.

Ms Thomas said Mr Cotton had tried to apply to attend a rehabilitation facility however none were available at this time.

The NSW Police Prosecutor opposed the bail application and he said was most concerned with the level of agitation used during the offending.

“While the weapon turned out to be a gel blaster, the victims did not know that,” he said.

Magistrate Jeff Linden opposed the bail application and adjourned the matter to January 13 for further mention.

“While it’s anticipated he wanted to go to rehabilitation, there’s nothing before this court that rehabilitation is available,’ Mr Linden said.

“I would have had a different view if rehabilitation was available.”

Mr Cotton is also facing separate charges for causing malicious damage, and those matters have also been adjourned to January 13 to be heard in the Lismore Local Court.

Defence solicitor Natasha Wood lodged no pleas on his behalf and did not apply for bail.

“There is no release application today,” Ms Wood said.

“Mr Cotton has an application for Transformations rehabilitation that’s already been submitted.”

The court heard her client would likely apply for bail upon being accepted to rehab.

Ms Wood asked the court to note her client was at risk of self-harm, and stressed he had not had access to medication for a mental health condition since he was arrested.

A brief of evidence is expected to be filed by December 14 and Mr Cotton is due to return to court two days later.

The court heard Mr Cotton had been on bail in relation to separate charges at the time of the alleged robbery and this was formally revoked.

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Casino ice supplier gets more time to show rehab worked

A CASINO woman guilty of drug and weapons offences will have more time to demonstrate her rehabilitation before she is sentenced for her crimes.

Stacey Lee Hogan, 36, was arrested in August 2019 after police spent seven months investigating the supply of ice and firearms in Casino, Lismore, Tabulam, Drake and Irvington.

Hogan has been on bail in Sydney rehabilitation centre, Kathleen York House.

Earlier this year she pleaded guilty to supplying a commercial quantity of methylamphetamine on an ongoing basis and possessing and supplying unregistered pistols.

Other related offences are to be taken into account when she is sentenced.

Six people were arrested on Thursday following a seven month investigation into a drug syndicate in the Casino and Lismore area.

Judge John North said while the offences before the court were “very serious matters” and numerous, he acknowledged Hogan had done “a great deal” to try to improve her situation.

In Lismore District Court on Thursday, Hogan’s legal team sought a long adjournment to allow time for her to be further rehabilitated before her penalty is handed down.

Defence counsel Paul Smart has indicated to the court he will seek a sentence other than full time custody, while the prosecution is expected to still seek a prison term, regardless of Hogan’s rehabilitative results.

The Crown prosecutor did, however, agree there was “some real utility on the deferral of the sentence” and she did not oppose that delay.

“There is further utility in her completing her rehabilitation in the community, noting the difficulties, in 2020, for offenders to take part in full time residential rehabilitation,” she said.

“It is conceded she has made significant steps towards mitigation.”

Six people were arrested on Thursday following a seven month investigation into a drug syndicate in the Casino and Lismore area.

Six people were arrested on Thursday following a seven month investigation into a drug syndicate in the Casino and Lismore area.

Judge North set the case down to be mentioned on March 8 next year, with sentencing expected to occur on June 1, “for the purpose of assessing whether rehabilitation has taken place”.

Hogan remains on strict bail which requires her to stay engaged with the Kathleen York House after-care program, among other conditions.

Judge North told Hogan while there were “very positive reports” from the centre, it would become “very difficult” not to return her to custody if she breaches her bail conditions.

“You dug a big hole for yourself when you got charged with these serious offences,” he said.

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