Slipper re-signed with Reds before second positive test

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

James Slipper's future beyond 2018 remains uncertain, with the end of a Rugby Australia imposed playing ban in sight.

The troubled Reds star was fined $27,500 and suspended for two months by the national governing body almost six weeks ago, having returned a pair of positive tests for cocaine between February and May.

It's understood the ban will be lifted on July 15 but with Queensland's season drawing to a close when they host the Sunwolves at Suncorp Stadium on July 13, the likelihood of the 86 Test prop pulling on the maroon jersey again continues to diminish.

That's despite new details regarding Slipper's contract which RUGBY.com.au can now reveal - the star prop signing a $500,000 per year contract extension with the Reds and Rugby Australia in the days prior to his second positive in late May, securing his future until the end of 2020.

Coach Brad Thorn is understood to be holding firm on his desire to not include Slipper, Hunt and Quade Cooper in his plans for the future.Brad Thorn hasn't budged on his stance. Photo: Getty ImagesHis comments in the wake of the Slipper story breaking in May were revealing in that sense.

"It's a tough one because obviously Slips has been struggling with some stuff and there is obviously some compassion around that and caring for him around that and getting that addressed, supporting him and stuff," Thorn said.

"The other side of that is cocaine - you can't have that.

"As the head coach of the club, I have my young guys in here.

"I'm watching my sons play rugby at school and there are all those kids - it's a real issue, to me.

"There are two sides of it and you can't have that - you can't have cocaine, drug use."

Thorn has shown he has no hesitation in keeping a large chunk of his salary cap on the sidelines, with both Cooper and Hunt yet to play this season despite being available for the majority of the year.Slipper's suspension has almost run its course. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Slipper situation is not viewed in any different light and the brains trust at Ballymore will not stand in the star prop's way if he elects to join a new Australian franchise.

It's understood each of the three other Australian Super Rugby clubs have reached out to Slipper's management in the last six weeks. Rugby Australia would have to sign off on any move.

A firm contender to take the contract of Queensland's hands has not emerged but some level of interest is better than none, given the substantial chunk of the salary cap already eaten up by Cooper, Hunt and now that he has returned from Bordeaux for the offseason - Nick Frisby.

The Slipper matter has also caused some discomfort within the QRU regarding Rugby Australia's illicit drug policy.

It is similar in structure to the policy carried by both the AFL and NRL but it's understood the Reds are far from pleased that they were kept in the dark for the entirety of Slipper's contract negotiation when the majority of those talks took place after he had received his first strike.

There will be a push for reform in that space moving forward, a point made by QRU chairman Jeff Miller on the day the Slipper story became public.

"We've got a duty of care to all our employees and after this, we really need to have a look at the policy and testing," Miller said.

"This incident has made us look back at the policy and look closely at the policy.

"I don't think anyone as ever thinking we would have to use it but we have so we will do our review."

The need for illicit drugs policy reform was also highlighted in the new CBA.

The Reds host the Rebels at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEST, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS and RUGBY.com.au radio.