Former Cronulla head trainer Trent Elkin has welcomed a decision by the NRL appeals tribunal to impose a reduced suspension of 21 months over his role in the supplements program at the club in 2011.
The ruling means that Elkin will not be able to work in the NRL until at least December 2015, but was viewed as a victory by the ex-Sharks and Parramatta strength and conditioning coach, who had appealed against the severity of the penalty against him after initially having his registration cancelled indefinitely by NRL chief executive Dave Smith on December 17.
The suspension has been backdated to March 6, which effectively means Elkin cannot return any sooner, but he said after Friday's judgement by the appeals tribunal panel of Ian Callinan QC, Michael Cleary and Luke Priddis that he was grateful the matter had been resolved the way it had because the original ban had taken an enormous toll on his family.
“I’m extremely grateful that the appeals committee recognised the penalty imposed by the NRL was excessive and thank them sincerely," Elkin said in a statement on Friday night.
“The last 18 months have been incredibly hard. This whole episode has placed immense stress on my family and I. I have dedicated a large part of my life to rugby league and I am devastated I will not be returning to the game in the immediate future.”
“However, I will maintain a role within the health and fitness industry while I work with the NRL to complete the education and training courses ordered by the appeals committee."
The reasons for the downgrading of the of Elkin’s sentence have not been revealed, but he was granted leave to appeal by Callinan in March on the basis that the initial penalty was manifestly excessive.
The hearing was the first time Elkin had been given an opportunity to state his case in person following a lengthy process in which he has had to reply to the allegations of jeopardising the health and welfare of Cronulla players in 2011 by written legal submissions.
His suspension was originally open-ended when he was de-registered last December, but he will now be able to have the ban lifted in December 2015 - if he meets a range of conditions.
The conditions include undergoing an intensive education and training course focused on workplace health and safety and the use and administration of dietary and other supplements.
The course will also cover the NRL rules, including those relating to anti-doping. Elkin cannot have any contact with an NRL team during his 21 month ban.
NRL’s chief operating officer Jim Doyle backed the committee’s decision.
“We are pleased that the committee has adopted a strong stance on this issue, consistent with that taken by the NRL, and we will implement its findings relating to Elkin,” Doyle said.
“We have a fair and independent process in place to ensure that these matters are dealt with professionally and transparently.”
Elkin thanked those who have supported him in the long fight to restore his reputation.
“I want to thank my barrister Mr Stephen Stanton, my solicitor David Hansen from Carter’s Law Firm, my family, friends and those in the game that have remained loyal," he said. “I also thank the Parramatta Eels Football Club for the unwavering support they have provided to my family and I from the outset.”
The story Elkin's ban reduced after successful appeal to NRL first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.