Penrith Panthers Training Session
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 20: Brent Naden of the Panthers runs the ball during a Penrith Panthers NRL training session at Panthers Stadium on October 20, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Ex-Panthers skipper James Tamou has defended former teammate Brent Naden after he turned in a positive cocaine test on grand final night.

Tamou recalls feeling “stunned” when he heard the news regarding the 25-year old’s positive test but immediately wanted to ensure his safety and wellbeing.

He acknowledged that Naden was battling some “demons” and that bubble life probably didn’t suit him.

“I was stunned,” he toldĀ The Sydney Morning Herald.

“I had no idea. Throughout the year I knew the poor guy had some demons. But that news left me stumped and I was like, ‘what’s going on?’

“My first thoughts, when I found out, was to make sure he was OK.

“Bubble life, I’ve got four young kids at home and I’m always busy. But the young guys who are single and go home to four walls and twiddle their thumbs, mentally it would have been tough. I’m not [condoning drug use], but there were a lot of things going on for ‘Nado’.’

The 32-year old knew the Panthers would struggle to retain all their talent coming off a grand final campaign.

“It’s a shame because Penrith are such a good club but they can’t keep them all.

“A guy like Stephen Crichton is still so young but he’s definitely worth the money. I know ‘Critta’, he loves the boys and he loves Penrith. It’s not his fault because he deserves the money he can get. It’s about trying to keep the young ones together, which is going to be the problem for Penrith.”

Taumou now moves onto the next chapter of his NRL career having signed a two-year deal with the Wests Tigers.

He returned to training this week, three weeks before he was officially scheduled to begin pre-season.

The veteran brings 267 games of NRL experience to Concord, previously playing for the Cowboys from 2008-2016.