THE near-death of two young South Sydney rugby league players has reverberated around the National Rugby League, with one high-profile star and a former first-grade coach revealing prescription drug abuse had been an issue in the game for years.
Close friends and Souths teammates Dylan Walker and Aaron Gray have been recovering in Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital after being placed in induced comas early on Wednesday morning.
The pair reportedly overdosed on prescription drugs following post-season surgery.
According to medical reports both players were in a critical condition when they arrived at the hospital's emergency department after a friend called 000 when he discovered them vomiting in a granny flat at Gray's Rosebery home, where they had been watching movies together.
The NRL's Integrity Unit has launched a full investigation, with chief executive David Smith saying the most immediate concern is the health and welfare of the players.
Kiwi international and Dragons halfback Benji Marshall said players had been abusing prescription drugs for a long time.
"Throughout my years of playing, I have seen it in club teams and I've seen it in rep teams, people taking prescription drugs recreationally," he told Fox Sports.
"Sometimes they take them recreationally instead of drinking."
Former coach Matthew Elliott, who racked up a total of more than 300 games with four NRL clubs, said while officials might not have been aware of players taking prescription drugs for recreational purposes, they were taking a big interest following the latest scare to rock the game.
- WAYNE HEMING
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.