Leeds Rhinos: Leeds play the waiting game on hooker Aiton

Paul Aiton.
Paul Aiton.
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LEEDS RHINOS are still waiting to hear if hooker Paul Aiton will face punishment following an investigation into a club he played for in Australia three years ago.

Aiton is one of 17 players allegedly given banned peptides when playing for Cronulla Sharks in 2011.

Twelve of the players were interviewed by Australian anti-doping agency ASADA and accepted backdated year-long bans – only three-months of which were served during the playing season – as part of a deal to bring the case to a conclusion.

But reports in Australia have suggested Aiton, who joined Rhinos last autumn after two seasons with Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, was not offered the same deal and could face a two-year suspension.

Aiton is still on his off-season break and Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington said the Papua New Guinea international is now “dealing with the situation”.

“Paul is not due to report back just yet,” Hetherington said.

“The off-season has been staggered – some of our players continued to train post our last game and some didn’t.

“Some our the players are back in training now and some are due back in a few weeks. Paul is due back in a couple of weeks’ time and he’s currently visiting Papua New Guinea and Australia. He wasn’t originally part of the 18-month Asada investigation into what went on at Cronulla in the 2011 season.

“Paul is now dealing with that while he is over in Australia and he will be getting representation through the NRL and the Australian players’ association.

“The whole investigation is centred on what happened at Cronulla and it’s nothing to do with the RFL and in many ways nothing to do with Leeds Rhinos.

“It is an issue for Paul Aiton and the NRL, who are dealing with it and there will be an outcome.”

The Leeds man is understood not to have been offered the same deal as his former team-mates as he no longer plays in Australia’s NRL.

Hetherington has previously rejected speculation Rhinos are monitoring Huddersfield Giants hooker Shaun Lunt – who was a member of their 2012 Grand Final-winning side during a loan spell – as a stand-by in case Aiton receives a two-year suspension.

“It would be inconceivable that any player could get anything different to what’s happened to the other players at Cronulla, which was effectively a three-month ban,” Hetherington said. “That’s a process the player and his legal representatives will have to wait on.”

Asked if he is confident Aiton will be available for Rhinos next year, Hetherington replied: “Absolutely.”

Meanwhile, Hetherington said Rhinos are not looking to appoint a new assistant to coach Brian McDermott. James Lowes, McDermott’s former right-hand man, has not been replaced since leaving the Leeds organisation to become team boss at Bradford Bulls earlier this year.

“Ever since James Lowes left Brian has been working with his existing staff, Chris Plume and Barry Eaton,” Hetherington said.

“That has evolved and grown and there’s no need to change. Within the whole of our backroom staff there’s been very few changes, we have a lot of stability there.”

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