There’s no drugs culture at our club: Wests Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe
Wests Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe has denied there is a “drugs culture” at the club after disgraced centre Tim Simona’s claims that his cocaine addiction began during the club’s mad Monday celebrations three years ago.
But Pascoe says the club recognised Simona might have a problem and tried to help the now-deregistered player but was hindered in its efforts by a lack of honesty.
Just hours before the Tigers took to the paddock for their round-two clash against Penrith at Campbelltown on Sunday, Pascoe was forced to defend the club’s culture after Simona claimed in a Sunday newspaper that he had taken cocaine on a boat with six or seven other players.
“I believe there is no drug culture at the Wests Tigers,” Pascoe said. "He said he was on a boat. He didn’t mention they were teammates. Three years ago. As I said, I can only talk about what I have done in the last 18 months and the culture we’re trying to build now. I can’t speculate on what happened three years ago.
“A week in rugby league is a long time. We’re making changes and influencing positively the ability to educate the players in the time we have been here. I really can’t speculate on what happened three years ago. I wasn’t there. It would be unfair of me to do so.”
Two years ago, an NRL report into the welfare management at all 16 clubs said the Wests Tigers were the worst.
Since then, the club has placed a huge emphasis on welfare issues, quadrupling its investment in the departments associated with player wellbeing to the the extent they are now the No.2-ranked club.
“The club is constantly speaking with players about their life outside football either through wellbeing, coaches or head of football and myself and if a player is dishonest in that engagement, it makes it challenging,” Pascoe said.
“As a club, we are always providing tools and education for the players to be able to be in a position to make the right decision every time – the reality is we can’t babysit them 24/7.”
The Tigers granted Simona a number of payment advances during his time at the club, aware of his financial difficulties.
But Pascoe said the club was not aware of the gambling struggles he had that have since come to light.
“Any player that comes up and asks for an advance at our club, we stringently test that question and ask why they are asking for an advance,” Pascoe said.
"If it goes to a certain level of advance, it has to go to the board for approval. He came up with reasons which we thought were justifiable for that advance. There were personal reasons why he wanted an advance. We wouldn’t give players an advance if they were requesting it for gambling.
“Of course, we wouldn’t. We wouldn’t give players an advance if we knew they had gambling issues. The amount of players we sit there and service on a day-to-day basis around wellbeing or financial capabilities … we’re constantly monitoring their ability to be financially stable. That’s our responsibility as it is theirs as it is their managers.”
The club has not formally addressed the playing group on the matters relating to Simona, who last week had his NRL contract deregistered for gambling on rugby league.
But Pascoe said he would speak to the team this week following the indefinite ban that had been placed on their former teammate.
“We’re constantly addressing them. We’re communicating more than we ever have with them,” Pascoe said.
"Up until Friday, it was all alleged. We will have a conversation with them this week and we will address the outcomes of those conversations. We gave them a new book in January this year that goes through all our standards and behaviours and policies they have to adhere to as players.
"We have had external parties come in and talk to them about how to treat women and behaviours. We’re constantly doing it and we will continue to do it. But we can’t monitor these players 24/7."