Former Panthers general manager of football Phil Gould is still coming to terms on how Brent Naden featured in Penrith's grand final against Melbourne with cocaine in his system.
The 24-year-old was placed under a provisional suspension under the NRL’s Anti-doping Policy this week after returning a positive A-sample of cocaine from October 25.
Gould, who spent nine years at the Panthers, revealed to Nine News that Naden had often struggled with mental health issues.
"I hope to speak to him in the next couple of weeks just to reassure him that these things happen and there's no reason why he can't bounce back," Gould told Nine News.
"He does suffer from anxiety, nerves and feeling as though he belongs in the game and that team.
"I can imagine him having periods of downtime and depression and dealing with it - I guess around that time, with the pressure of finals football.
"His first finals campaign, conjecture as to whether or not he would be in or out of the team. These are the sort of things that could play heavily on his mind.
"There's nothing malicious about Brent.
"There is nothing here to me that would ever suggest he was doing it in a performance-enhancing manner.
"This would be more dealing with stress."
Gould admitted he couldn’t figure out what led the Naden to use cocaine before the grand final.
"It is [mind blowing]," Gould added.
"I'm trying to work out how that might've come to play.
"That's something Brent has got to answer in the next week when he gets his inquiry from the NRL.
"Quite strange. I haven't heard of this for many decades of players playing with this in their system."