The NRL is under pressure to crack down on the abuse of prescription drugs after South Sydney pair Dylan Walker and Aaron Gray were rushed by ambulance to intensive care after a painkiller overdose on Tuesday morning put their lives in jeopardy.
Walker and Gray were on Tuesday night conscious and in a stable condition in Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital after their health scares.
Rabbitohs chief executive John Lee is awaiting toxicology reports and to interview the pair before deciding their future, while police and the NRL investigate.
The pair were at Gray’s apartment with two friends when they became ill.
One of their friends noticed that one of the players was vomiting and dialled triple-0 avoiding a potential tragedy.
Lee said had others not been there, one or both of the players could have died.
“If there hadn’t been two other people at the unit we could have been talking about a tragedy here tonight,” Lee said on NRL 360 on Fox Sports.
“It was very serious. One of the players has liquid on his lungs so that would indicate it was potentially a life-threatening health issue.
“It could have been tragic and we’re just thankful it’s been averted.”
Lee was insistent that Walker and Gray, who are childhood friends, were not abusing the pain killers “for fun” but described their actions as “dumb”.
Both had undergone post-season surgery – Walker on his left hand and Gray on his right knee – and the details of the incident that landed them in hospital remain clouded.
However it’s brought the abuse of prescription medication to the fore.
Lee said both players could undergo counselling and clinical care to treat their issues.
St George Illawarra halfback Benji Marshall said while the abuse of prescription medication was less common since the NRL clamped down on it several years ago, it was still prevalent.
“It’s a wake up call,” Marshall said.
“Throughout my years in club teams and in rep teams, I’ve seen players take prescription drugs recreationally.
“It’s fine to take them to ease pain or if you’ve had an operation, but to take them recreationally instead of drinking, it’s when you cross the line.”
Walker, 20, played four games for Australia after playing a starring role in the club’s breakthrough premiership win last year.
Gray, 21, made his first grade debut this season and scored seven tries in 12 matches, earning himself a two-year extension at Redfern.