Cronulla boss Dino Mezzatesta admits the NRL club would have kept Josh Morris had the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority not waited six months to reveal a positive drug test for Bronson Xerri.
On the eve of the league’s return from its COVID-19 shutdown, Xerri was sensationally stood down after testing positive to performance-enhancing substances.
There is mounting pressure on ASADA to explain why the NRL was not notified of Xerri’s result from a test in November until Monday.
Should the 19-year-old’s B-sample also be positive, Xerri faces a maximum four-year ban.
Mezzatesta on Wednesday questioned the drawn out process, with ASADA refusing to respond to requests for an explanation.
“That’s a matter really for the NRL to take up with ASADA but it does seem like a long process,” Mezzatesta said.
“Our hope is that the process isn’t anywhere near as long to conclude.
“It could be more damaging not only for the individual and club but the code itself.
“We should be celebrating the return to game and that’s what we should be focusing and concentrating on.
“That’s why we’d hope there’s an expedient outcome for all concerned.”
Xerri’s unavailability comes after the Sharks in March granted Morris an early release from his contract to join twin brother Brett at the Sydney Roosters.
Coach John Morris must now turn to veteran Josh Dugan and established talent Jesse Ramien.
Had he known of Xerri’s uncertain fate earlier, Morris would still be in Cronulla.
“That’s one of the reasons why we’re quite disappointed in the length of time that it’s taken to notify not only the NRL, but the club,” Mezzatesta said.
“Things may have been completely different for us.
“So absolutely, had we been notified early, we may have well taken things very differently in our approach to our playing roster.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison weighed into the matter earlier on Wednesday.
“As a Sharks fan I’m obviously disappointed and I’m sure the players and the club officials are disappointed,” Morrison said on Sky News.
“But there is an ASADA process that is ongoing and I don’t want pre-judge that.
“Bronson is an incredibly talented young footballer, he made his debut last year and was electrifying to watch.
“It would appear based on what we have seen that there have been some terrible judgements on his part.”
Mezzatesta vowed the club would support Xerri as he deals with the matter.
“I’ve spoken to Bronson and spoken to his family. He’s obviously very shaken, he’s got a long road ahead,” he said.
“He needs to take some advice, but he’s fully aware that he has our full support.”