SHARKS players suspect the drugs rumours surrounding Todd Carney have been started by the Roosters players, some of whom don't get along with their former teammate. Carney was last tested by drugs officials in February. The rumour spread before Origin II in Sydney that he was going to be stood down after the match because he had returned a positive reading, but Carney played and has played since - some of his Sharks teammates have been implicated in the rumour. Carney called me about the issue several weeks ago - he was distressed and wasn't sure how to approach the situation. At the time I said I could write the truth. Instead, he chose to ignore it in the hope the rumour would run out of steam. It hasn't. He took to Twitter to try and clear it up: ''Surely people could come up with a better rumour than what I'm hearing at the moment. It's almost as good as pigs can fly#whatsnextimpregnant.'' He didn't want to comment further other than: ''I'm happy to be tested every day of the week.''
Jennings staying put
MICHAEL JENNINGS recently reopened debate about his future by criticising the Panthers club management and saying he was not certain about what lay ahead for him and now we may know why. The mail had been strong for some time that Ricky Stuart was going to the Eels - clubs were telling me that off-contract players had discussions with Stuart about joining him at Parramatta. Now you will remember it was Stuart who plucked Jennings from the Windsor Wolves and put him straight into the Origin team, where he regained confidence and form. Stuart hasn't wasted any time in his capacity as Eels coach talking to managers about potential players and Jennings's name came up in discussions with his manager, Isaac Moses. It's my understanding that Moses told Stuart that Jennings was happy at Penrith for now. Whether the Panthers want Jennings there long term given he is on $690,000 next year is another question. ''I enjoyed coaching Michael at Origin and I'm happy he's found his feet again at Penrith because he's a very important player for them going forward,'' said Stuart, who doesn't want to be used up by managers who know Parra are on a rebuilding campaign. He is in the process of meeting significant player managers in coming weeks. I've got no doubt that Stuart's main target will be Greg Bird, who is so close to his NSW coach that Stuart's kids idolise the Titans star. When asked about Bird, Stuart said: ''Greg is contracted until the end of next season.'' The Eels have money to spend. "I'll be in the market for players for next year but I'm not looking for a quick fix," Stuart said. There are also rumblings Stuart will have a lash at Johnathan Thurston, who is off contract at the end of next year. But the Eels will have to have a very successful 2013 to lure Thurston, who wants to win another competition before he retires and would only consider leaving the Cowboys for a team with the potential to go all the way. There's no doubt the Dogs will try to get him back - but if he was ever to leave Townsville, Souths appear the perfect fit. He is a proud indigenous sports star and the Bunnies have embraced that better than any other team.
Didn't see it coming
THE NSWRL boss John Chalk and his board have admitted they didn't see the Ricky Stuart move into club-land happening. It's a bit hard to believe, given there has been acres of newspaper space dedicated to Stuart and his coaching possibilities. ''It was a decision that happened very quickly,'' Chalk said. ''And as a result we did not have a succession plan in place, but now that it has happened we want to find a coach sooner rather than later.'' The NSWRL must have been confident Stuart would not find a club. ''We did not speak to him before the Eels decision,'' he said. Geoff Carr and Stuart were due to meet on Friday but it was postponed. There's been a push from Blues officials for Bob Fulton to take on a greater role with the Blues - some even want him to make a coaching comeback. This year he was Stuart's adviser and he is unlikely to want to take on a different role to that. The likes of Laurie Daley, Brad Fittler and Trent Barrett have been touted. ''Some of those guys have media commitments,'' Chalk said. ''Trent did a lot more on-field coaching this year.'' And then there is Phil Gould. ''I think we would be silly not to speak to Gus - no one has a better record, but he has plenty on his plate at Penrith.''
Standing up for Leisel
BULLDOGS high performance manager Alan Thompson has refrained from talking swimming since his days as Australian swimming head coach. But the Leisel Jones issue has brought him back into the fray. ''Leisel is a champion and deserves far more respect than she is being given at the moment,'' he said. ''Look at her records and what she has achieved. I think any comment about Leisel should be reserved until after the Games.'' Other coaches say the only way to handle the situation is to point out her achievements and tie those results in with what her skinfolds were at the time - and then leave it to her.
THERE'S been plenty of a speculation about the Eels burning up the dollars paying out Stephen Kearney and signing Ricky Stuart. Kearney wasn't on the huge dollars that many suspected. I understand his contract was $310,000 year one, $320,000 year two and $330,000 for next year. Kearney also stood to get a bonus of $25,000 for a top-eight finish, a further $25,000 for a preliminary final appearance and a $50,000 bonus if he won the competition. All along, this column was told Kearney had a watertight contract - it's hard to believe he walked away from about $500,000 by resigning. A payout of $320,000 has been mentioned to me. We were told last week Stuart was set to secure a million-dollar package and that seems to be in the ballpark.
Hasler rights a wrong
DES HASLER had every right to feel wronged when it was reported he thought it would be a backward step to have Ricky Stuart coach the Blues. That was the upshot of a media conference I attended and at no point was that mentioned by Hasler. He was so annoyed he rang Stuart to apologise for the report. ''Yeah, I called Ricky,'' Hasler said. ''Because I support the idea of him being involved with Origin. He puts in so much support and so much groundwork and it would be a shame to waste the momentum he has created. The way the model should work is that Jim Dymock and Trent Barrett should be responsible for all the lead-up work and all the preparation that Ricky would normally do and that would enable him to come in at the death when the games were close so he could then take charge of the team. In my eyes it's a no-brainer that that's how it should work.''
Pearce in a sweat
MITCHELL PEARCE has been rattled by the media attention in recent weeks - from what I've been told, the Roosters don't want him going to another club. His manager, Mike Newton, is not well liked at the club and that is causing tension at management level, which is filtering down to Pearce. During Origin, Pearce got it in his head that he had to ''learn'' more as a player and that led to him being restless. That's where the lure of playing under Des Hasler surfaced and the scenario of Trent Hodkinson being released to make way for Pearce was whispered. Pearce and the rest of the Roosters had a clear-the-air session earlier in the week and there was some love in the air.
IT'S the award no player wants - the Rugby League Week most over-rated ranking, shared this year between Ben Creagh and Braith Anasta. There is talk of cutting it from next year's poll. The majority of players are snubbing the question - but they are more than happy to tell the magazine which player is a grub.
BENJI MARSHALL was bemused by reports he was not at training on Thursday. He got his hand strapped during warm-up and then trained the rest of the session.