From the SMH website LEAGUE officials have defended a sponsorship deal in which each member of the Kangaroos World Cup squad was given a card entitling them to $1000 of alcohol. The arrangement was revealed last night after Australian prop Brent Kite questioned whether officials were encouraging alcohol abuse at the same time they were cracking down on off-field behaviour. Kite is particularly upset by the four-match ban imposed on his Manly teammate Brett Stewart for bringing the game into disrepute by becoming intoxicated at the Sea Eagles season launch - conduct the NRL did not believe was becoming of the face of the season. Stewart was later charged with sexual assault but Kite last week told the Herald the grounds for the NRL suspending him were an "injustice". The Sea Eagles front-rower, a devout Christian, continued his attack on the game's officials last night after going public about the sponsorship deal with VB, whose name appeared on the front of the Australian team's jerseys during the World Cup. "I've got a $1000 VB beer card I haven't used. That's part of being a Kangaroo," Kite told Channel Seven. "The beer sponsor's a big part of the game, but surely we've got a responsibility - these young blokes - to look after them." ARL chief executive Geoff Carr said the card, which could be used at bottle shops, was valid for a year and intended as a Christmas gift to the players. Carr also questioned Kite's motives for speaking out now and not during the tournament. "Brent Kite didn't have to accept the card. Why didn't he give it back and say something at the time?" Carr told the Herald. "There was never any inference to the players that, 'You've got to go out and spend $1000 on grog during the World Cup.' It was a gift from one of our sponsors that they could use to buy their partners some wine or whatever they wanted for their friends and families at Christmas or over a pretty lengthy period of time." ARL chairman Colin Love said: "We encourage the responsible consumption of alcohol". The controversy came as Central Coast Rugby League yesterday announced a ban on full-strength alcohol at all grounds in the area, and the NRL's new player behaviour committee met for the first time yesterday. Club chief executives Steve Noyce, Shane Richardson and Todd Greenberg joined NRL boss David Gallop and representatives from the Rugby League Professionals Association in forming a committee to discuss off-field incidents, and acknowledged the NRL should step in where clubs had failed to act adequately. Despite calls for an independent tribunal to be formed to decide punishments, the committee has appeared to quash that in the short term. "Everyone is committed to working on the issue of player behaviour as a game-wide issue," Gallop said. "Everyone accepts that we should keep working to a consistent approach in terms of penalties but it is equally important to recognise that we are dealing with a very inconsistent range of circumstances. "There was clear agreement that the responsibility and indeed the ability to deal with issues in the first instance rests with the club and that an independent tribunal would be impractical. "The NRL wishes to be involved only when the penalty of the club is manifestly inadequate and there is a need to protect the reputation of the game. We discussed a number of options today that may assist clubs and players in better understanding the sort of penalties and codes that are being enforced." The Central Coast Rugby League, which is home to 4500 juniors, a 10-club, 40-team senior competition and fields sides in the NSWRL's new under-16s and under-18s competitions, said it wanted to encourage a family atmosphere at all games in the area. "A big part of this is promoting the fact that everyone who has a drink, whether at the footy or elsewhere, needs to do so responsibly," CCRL general manager Scott Wyatt said. "Reduced strength products do not stop people from going to the footy to have a beer with their mates whilst supporting their local side."