After a four-year drug ban, Bulldogs recruit is back on the paddock

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For the first time in four years, Bronson Xerri on Friday took part in his first NRL training session.

“Walking in was pretty nerve-wracking, but the boys were very welcoming and so were the staff,” Xerri said after his first workout as a Bulldog. “I was just itching to get on the field and get among the boys and as hard as it was, I enjoyed it.”

This day has been a long time coming. Xerri hasn’t participated in a sanctioned session since he was banned for taking prohibited substances – he tested positive to the presence of exogenous Testosterone, and its metabolites Androsterone, Etiocholanolone and 5b-androstane-3a, 17b-diol – in November 2019.

Still only a teenager at the time, the former Sharks centre spiralled into depression during his suspension. But he continued to train, predominantly with renowned sprint guru Roger Fabri, in the hope of getting a second chance in the NRL.

That came in the form of a lifeline from Canterbury, who offered the 23-year-old a two-year deal.

The first of the returning Bulldogs players were put through fitness drills at Belmore Sports Ground on Friday. It was a moment Xerri had long been awaiting.

Canterbury Bulldogs recruit Bronson Xerri during his first day of NRL training after serving a four-year drugs ban.Credit: Bulldogs Media

“I’ve been training hard for this and honestly, that was tough,” Xerri said. “But as hard as it was, I enjoyed every minute of it and I’m just keen to keep ripping in with the boys.”

Xerri has set himself the goal of impressing coach Cameron Ciraldo and earning a spot for Canterbury’s opening-round NRL clash against Parramatta. It will be no easy task given he will be competing with outside backs including Stephen Crichton, Jacob Kiraz, Blake Wilson, Braidon Burns, Hayze Perham, Jayden Okunbor, Kurt Mann, Blake Taaffe and Jaeman Salmon.

One Bulldog who was conspicuously absent at training was Raymond Faitala-Mariner. The Canterbury club captain’s future is in limbo after being told he can negotiate with other teams, despite being contracted until 2025.

Xerri may not be the only star centre making a comeback after a drugs ban. The Roosters want to offer Michael Jennings a train-and-trial deal, although the NRL is yet to ratify a contract. The premiership-winning centre is just two games shy of bringing up 300 first-grade games.

The Bulldogs have also announced a subsidy grant for new junior participants, with children who meet the criteria from the under-fives to under-13s age groups eligible to receive up to $100 towards covering costs. The Canterbury Leagues Club will fund the initiative.

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