Brent Naden has been dropped to reserve grade for the first month of Penrith’s NRL season as further punishment for testing positive to cocaine after the grand final.
The Panthers have confirmed coach Ivan Cleary has told the centre he will not pick him for the first four rounds, as part of a decision led by the Penrith coach and senior players.
The decision to axe Naden from Penrith’s top team is not an official punishment determined by the club and comes on top of a $20,000 suspended fine.
Naden has also already served a one-month ban for the post-game positive test, in line with the new WADA code that includes a significantly reduced sentence.
He was also fined $5000 by the NRL earlier this year for breaching the game’s biosecurity guidelines on the night before the grand final.
The Wellington product will still be able to train with the team and will also be available for the club’s trial against Parramatta next Saturday.
Naden’s positive test left salt in the wound for the Panthers after their 26-20 grand-final loss to the Storm.
It’s understood the 25-year-old thought he would not be playing in the match after being dropped to the bench in the preliminary final a week earlier.
He, however, ran out for 32 minutes in the decider, before admitting himself into a rehabilitation facility for drug and alcohol issues.
Naden now faces a significant battle to force his way back into Penrith’s team.
Paul Momirovski only arrived at the Panthers last week from the Wests Tigers, but would be considered an option to play at right centre.
Penrith also brought Robert Jennings back across from the Tigers this off-season, while Tyrone May started at centre in the grand final in place of Naden.
Naden also lost his spot in Penrith’s team after last season’s lockdown, but was able to regain it when Josh Mansour and then Dean Whare were injured.