Kiwi internationals Shaun Johnson and Jason Nightingale have taken aim at the New Zealand Rugby League for the way it has handled its investigation into the alleged use of sleeping pills and energy drinks during the World Cup.
Johnson believes the probe into the players mixing sleeping pills with energy drinks at last year's tournament in the United Kingdom has been blown out of proportion, while Nightingale criticised the NZRL for going public with the details of the investigation.
Reports suggested Sonny Bill Williams and Kieran Foran are at the forefront of investigations, but Nightingale believes it should never have become public knowledge.
"That's very disappointing to hear all those sorts of things come out," Nightingale said.
"I think that stuff needs to be handled in-house and should not be played out in the public scene. I'll be watching with interest to see where it goes. I don't look back on the World Cup and think like that, I think about the footy and everything else that was happening. I don't think, 'If only, if only'. Our team fell at the last hurdle in the World Cup final, it's easy to go and point fingers in different places.
"It's interesting to see how it all plays out but I would rather it did not play out the way it has been. I'm disappointed in the announcement of it. It's something where you should wait until the review process is done before you say anything. It's disappointing that it came out before a review process is finished. It's a shame."
While neither Johnson nor Nightingale condoned the behaviour, both players were disgruntled by the fact it has tarnished the team's reputation.
Johnson identified mixing sleeping pills with energy drinks as a problem, not just in rugby league, but in all sports.
"It's not acceptable but I think this has been blown way out of proportion," Johnson said.
"I hate that everyone is going to be looking at us like we're addicted to these things and that we're on them the whole time when it seriously wasn't the case. I don't think it's a new thing in any code. They are there and athletes take them – it's that simple. The fact that we got pumped by 30 odd points didn't help the cause. Obviously that had some impact. When you go away from home to a place like that for so long, all you want to do is win. To come home empty handed and be embarrassed like that, I guess you have to put it down to something, don't you?"
Nightingale said the players were confronted about it by NZRL officials during the World Cup but insists energy drinks weren't mentioned. "We sort of spoke about it a little bit, but definitely not Red Bull and that sort of thing," he said. "It's weird to say those things about Red Bull and that. I don't know where that came from."