DANNY WICKS, the last NRL player to be busted for supplying drugs, will be released from jail at Easter.
However, the former Newcastle forward's rugby league career will remain on hold with his playing ban set to stretch until September 20 next year. Wicks was sentenced to a maximum of three years in jail, with a non-parole period of 18 months, after pleading guilty to drug-trafficking. He will be a free man as of Easter Saturday, when he is scheduled to be released from Glen Innes jail.
Those close to Wicks say he has been a model prisoner, that he has regained fitness and would like to return to the game at some level.
However, the fact that he was charged with trafficking - in her ruling, Judge Helen Syme stated that Wicks was ''one of many'' in a drug supply chain which was a ''joint criminal enterprise'' - resulted in his playing ban stretching to four years. Players testing positive to performance-enhancing substances are usually suspended for two years.
Wicks, who became a cult hero during his 69 NRL appearances for St George Illawarra and Newcastle, returned to his junior club, Grafton Ghosts, while awaiting the outcome of court proceedings.
However, Ghosts president Neil Payne said the club wouldn't be offering the 27-year-old a lifeline.
''No, I don't think it would be a wise move for the club,'' Payne said. ''We were aware that his jail term would expire this season but it was our understanding that his term of being able to play was a lot longer.
''Irrespective of whether that was the case, he won't be playing for us. We're very happy with the squad that we've got.''
It's estimated that Wicks lost up to $1.5 million in potential career earnings due to the playing ban.
Meanwhile, an NRL club source has told Fairfax Media that one of it's former star players, a State of Origin representative, used a horse linament to treat a recurring knee injury.
The player used the product, which was labelled ''for equine use only'', in the belief it would speed his recovery. When the practice was disclosed to the club doctor, he was ordered to discontinue use. The incident occurred at a club not named in the Australian Crime Commission's report into doping and the integrity of sport.
''The club doctor was absolutely horrified when this came to light,'' the source said. ''There's no telling what effect long-term effects that could have on your body.''