Cronulla coach John Morris is yet to speak to suspended star Bronson Xerri but says it is 'mindblowing' young players can find themselves under ASADA investigation.
The rising Sharks star has been provisionally suspended by the NRL under the code's anti-doping laws for returning a positive sample for a range of banned substances from a test in November.
It's understood it could take three weeks to have his 'B' sample analysed, and if positive, he is facing a four-year ban from all World Anti-Doping Agency compliant sports.
On Friday Morris said he and several players have reached out to Xerri to offer support as the club is deeply concerned for his welfare.
However, the 19-year-old is yet to get in contact beyond a brief statement he released through management on Wednesday.
Morris, who has done significant work through Cronulla's junior system and has worked with Xerri since he first came to the club at 14, says he feels 'sick in the stomach' over his positive sample.
"You spend so much time with them, in fact they spend as much time here at Shark Park as they do with their family at times, so we have that bond with them," Morris said.
"You love them like they're a part of your family.
"It's really harmful and really hurtful to know that he's in this situation, and I'm not suggesting what he's done or how he's come to have a positive test - there's still so much information to come to hand.
"But we're all really upset for him that he's in this situation and we know there's going to be a fight on his hands and a journey ahead of him."
Considered a future rep player, Xerri made his NRL debut in 2019 and was known as a star in the making at a young age.
Morris reiterated the depth of education junior players receive as they come through the NRL and NSWRL systems, leaving no room for interpretation.
He said he has never had any suspicions young players were doping but this incident is a stark reminder that it can happen.
"We certainly do everything we can within our club to provide all the education to the players, our compliance to the anti-doping code and we've got our own supplements policy," he said.
"The education players get is second to none. It's just mind-blowing that young players can find themselves in this situation.
"We still need to let him tell his story and defend himself, there's a lot more to play out there."
Morris became aware of Xerri's positive sample at around 12.30pm on Tuesday, hours before naming his team to play Wests Tigers on Saturday.
While there is a legal process for Xerri, Morris said he would like to sit down with him to get an explanation as to how this has happened.
"That's what we all want to know but I understand there's a formal investigation in place and I that's up to the NRL integrity unit and ASADA to carry out, I certainly won't be trying to intervene in this process," he said.
"There's obviously lawyers involved as well so it's going to be quite full on for Bronson to go through so I'll allow that to play out.
"I'd love to reach out and have a chat with him and put my arm around him and offer support, we've tried to do that and the players have tried to do that, but I think we can all appreciate that it's a very traumatic time for him."
Australian Associated Press