Expert fears league drinking culture - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Expert fears league drinking culture

Ian McCullough 19/04/2011 05:17:44 PM Comments (0)

A leading alcohol and drug addiction expert believes rugby league's drinking culture is damaging the NRL's younger players.

James Pitts, chief executive of Odyssey House rehab centre in Sydney and board member of the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia, said the issues affecting Todd Carney are a legacy of alcohol being accepted as part of the game.

"Guys are signed by a club to play football. Then after the game, you go to the (Leagues) club," Pitts told AAP.

"The expectation there is that you are going to interact with the supporters.

"The first thing a supporter often wants to do when they see a player is to buy them a drink.

"The player then has two options. You can have a drink or say: `I don't want one', then run the risk of offending the supporters and have them running off saying: `so-and-so is a dickhead and refused a drink from me'.

"If you are a younger player, you feel obligated to acquiesce to the requests of a supporter.

"The league has been trying to deal with this, but there is certainly still a culture of football players having difficulty dealing with alcohol."

Pitts, who moved to Australia from the US in 1981, said it is a concern to see so many cases involving alcohol abuse and players, but said it was not a great surprise given the pressure of being in the spotlight.

"These are players aged 18-29 and when you look at the general population, that is the prime drug using group and the biggest drug that causes problems is alcohol," he said.

"People know that one of the problems with rugby league over the years, Anthony Watmough is one example and, Todd Carney happens to be the latest or any number of players.

"He is a hell of a player when on his game, but the question is, how does being a footballer, make him feel he has to turn to alcohol?

"These guys are at the top of their sports, but something needs to be done to maybe help these young men cope with everything that happens away from the football field."

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