ARLC chairman Peter V'Landys.
ARLC chairman Peter V'Landys.

NRL boss would force COVID vaccinations

Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V'landys has declared all NRL players would be required to take a coronavirus vaccine if one is made available.

Queensland health officials stamped down on anti-vaccination advocates earlier this month, determining any NRL players who refused a flu jab would be stood down. Therefore, Gold Coast Titans stars Bryce Cartwright and Brian Kelly were not permitted to train with their club until they were vaccinated.

Kelly reluctantly accepted a flu shot, while Cartwright was granted a medical exemption due to a previous bad reaction. After missing a week of training, it is unknown whether the pair will feature in the Titans' team to face the North Queensland Cowboys when the premiership returns next weekend.

There were approximately a dozen additional NRL players from New South Wales clubs who also refused a flu jab.

Speaking on 2GB's Ben Fordham Live, V'landys said players would be not be allowed to turn down a coronavirus vaccine if one is found in the near future.

"We've always prided ourselves that we look at the community first and our players' health," V'landys said on Thursday.

"If it did become available, for the benefit of the players and for the benefit of the whole community, they would be required to take the vaccine."

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The NRL was one of the first sports globally to announce its return amid the coronavirus epidemic. Despite some scepticism from fans, V'landys was always "absolutely 100 per cent confident" the premiership could recommence on May 28th.

"I knew the infection rate was coming down. Sixty per cent of the infections were coming from overseas," V'landys said.

"We did a very in-depth analysis as to the infection rate, and we all believed by May 28th it would be very low and below one per cent."

V'landys was also "very confident" capped crowds will be permitted when State of Origin gets underway in November.

"If the infection rate continues to be at these low points, and if the recovery rate overtakes the infection rate, I can't see why we can't (have crowds)," V'landys said.

"Come State of Origin, we were hoping to allow all the emergency workers as our special guests to thank them for all their efforts during this crisis.

"I'm very confident that at some point during the year - hopefully Grand Final and State of Origin - we'll have capped crowds. And before then, maybe small crowds of one hundred, two hundred that are very distanced apart."

Manly Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler is hopeful any non-vaccinated players will be able to play in Queensland by the time his team arrives in two months.

The NRL's revised draw has done a good job of keeping the controversial issue at bay, allowing for a possible change of state government policy if coronavirus restrictions continue to ease.

Manly Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler.
Manly Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler.

Manly are likely to be the first team with top-line players who refused the flu shot on non-medical grounds to play in Queensland when they face North Queensland in Townsville.

But the good news for the Sea Eagles is that match isn't until July 24th and it's their only visit to the Sunshine State.

Under Queensland government restrictions, players who have rejected the flu jab without a medical exemption are unable to train or play in the state. The Sea Eagles are believed have two such players, with Dylan Walker and Addin Fonua-Blake both initially opting against being vaccinated.

"I think as we get into the season the status might change," Hasler said of the government restrictions.

"It's still a tough game, travelling to Townsville."

Either way, Hasler said he was not concerned about the matter. Canberra follow the Sea Eagles to Townsville the following week, before returning for a clash with Gold Coast on August 22nd.

The Raiders have Josh Papalii, Joseph Tapine and Sia Soliola in their squad who refused the vaccine earlier this month.

Canterbury hooker Sione Katoa also opposed vaccination and his team face Brisbane on July 11th in their only trip to the state.

Katoa however was not part of the Bulldogs' first-choice 17 for the opening two rounds.

- With AAP

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