Holmes given breach notice by NRL for “white powder” in Instagram post

Noah Strang
By:
Noah Strang
14/09/2023
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Valentine Holmes given breach notice by NRL

Valentine Holmes has been issued a breach notice by the NRL for posting an Instagram post with a bag of white powder.

News Insights

  • Valentine Holmes pictured with white powder
  • Investigation concluded in breach notice for Holmes.
  • Holmes will likely be fined and could even be banned.
  • Holmes has five business days to respond to the breach notice

Cowboys star Valentine Holmes has been issued a breach notice by the National Rugby League (NRL) for a social media post he posted late Saturday night. The now-deleted Instagram post showed Holmes holding a small bag that appeared to contain white powder between his teeth.

Investigation results in breach notice

In the hours following Holmes’ Instagram post, it was revealed that both the North Queensland Cowboys and NRL had launched investigations into the 28-year-old. 

The Cowboys released the following statement on Sunday “The North Queensland Cowboys are aware of a photo posted to social media by a Cowboys player this morning. The club is conducting an investigation as well as assisting the NRL Integrity Unit.” The club also added that they will make no further comments until the investigations are complete. 

Holmes reportedly met with the  NRL Integrity Unit via Zoom on Monday. At that meeting, Holmes claimed that he  did not use cocaine or any other illicit substance. The Kangaroos international further clarified that the Instagram post and the white powder pictured in it was the result of a prank gone wrong.

Because the Cowboys are not playing in the 2023 NRL Finals  series, Holmes is already on his annual leave from NRL duties. Per the league and player associations collective bargaining agreement (CBA), the NRL cannot drug test Holmes, so this interview was his only chance to clear his name. 

Unfortunately for Holmes, the NRL and the Integrity Unit were not convinced by his testimony. The Cowboys star was formally issued a breach notice on Wednesday. According to the league, “Holmes engaged in conduct which has brought the game and his club into disrepute by publicly associating the game with illegal drugs".

For those unaware of the breach notice process, a breach notice is the final step before issuing a formal punishment. Holmes has five business days to respond to the breach notice with potential evidence to avoid or lessen his punishment.

Fine likely for Holmes, ban possible

As we discussed above, the NRL must wait five business days after issuing the breach notice before they can levy their punishment against Holmes. 

Via a statement, the NRL has said of Holmes’ punishment “In accordance with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the RLPA, no information on any proposed sanction will be disclosed until the player has had the opportunity to respond to the alleged breach and the matter is finalised.

While the NRL is contractually required to keep their lips shut on this matter, many are already speculating about Holmes’ future punishment. 

9news reporter Michael Chammas said on the 100% Footy podcast that he believes the NRL will levy a significant punishment against Holmes. “I think you'll find that Valentine Holmes is facing a hefty fine at the very least and the potential to face a couple of games of suspension as well,” said the experienced Sydney Morning Herald reporter. 

Past precedent also gives us insight into Holmes’ potential punishment. Melbourne Storm players Chris Lewis, Cameron Munster, and Brandon Smith were each fined $30,000 and suspended one match for appearing in a video partying where white powder was visible. 

Holmes’ international future in doubt

Holmes was a part of the Kangaroos winning side at the 2022 Rugby League World Cup last year, but his international career could be in jeopardy following this latest scandal. 

Australia coach Mal Meninga has already excluded Holmes from his side for the upcoming Prime Minister’s XIII clash with Papua New Guinea. There is also strong speculation that Holmes will miss Australia’s tests against New Zealand and Samoa at the end of the year. 

Whatever the punishment issued to Valentine Holmes, it is clear that the 28-year-old Queensland native will have a lot of work to do in order to both reclaim his reputation and his status as a regular Australian rugby league national team player.