The NRL has been forced into an embarrassing retreat after the league’s anti-vax players secured a rollicking win at the negotiation table.
The NRL has been forced into an embarrassing retreat after the league’s anti-vax players secured a rollicking win at the negotiation table.

Anti-vaxxers in major win over NRL

The NRL's anti-vax players have secured permission to play on when the 2020 season restarts on May 28 as the NRL was forced into retreat over its biosecurity protocols.

In a whirlwind 24 hours for the game, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison publicly advocated for the league to adopt a "no jab, no play" policy towards the players refusing to receive a common flu shot on Wednesday - only for the game to go in another direction.

It was reported on Wednesday the NRL was considering acting on Morrison's advice by making all anti-vax players unavailable for selection.

Just a day later, the league was forced into retreat after a Thursday meeting with the Rugby League Players' Association where the League was forced to give anti-vax players permission to play this season in spite of their decision to operate outside the league's biosecurity measures.

It emerged on Wednesday that Gold Coast star Bryce Cartwright has refused to receive the common flu shot, while Raiders stars, including Josh Papalii, reportedly also knocked back the flu jab on religious grounds.

Cartwright and the Raiders players reportedly also refused to sign a legal waiver which would have allowed them to continue training with their teammates.

It was earlier reportedly the players refused to sign the waiver because of a line in the document that stated the players accepted that they were at greater risk of contracting the flu if they refused the vaccine.

The NRL sat down with the RLPA on Thursday after a meeting of the Australian Rugby League Commission to address the anti-vax headache - and it was the players' union holding all the cards.

According to The Australian's Brent Read, the league has agreed to allow the anti-vax players to play this season, if they sign an updated legal waiver.

"The is only one clause in there we are going to change because of their religious grounds, which we have no problem with," Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V'Landys said, according to The Australian.

"We will change that clause but anyone who doesn't sign the waiver, will not be allowed to play."

The NRL confirmed its backflip in a statement on Thursday afternoon where the league said 97 per cent of players had already been vaccinated for the common flu strand.

"The National Rugby League has developed stringent biosecurity protocols that adhere to higher standards than public health orders," the NRL media release claimed.

"These protocols have been reaffirmed to clubs and players today, including the requirement for flu vaccinations for all players and staff.

"The protocols allow for exemptions to vaccinations under compelling circumstances, including requiring players to sign a release. Until an NRL-approved release is acknowledged and signed by players, they will not be permitted to train."

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton earlier heaped more pressure on the NRL to adopt a "no jab, no play" policy, saying health commitments must be adhered to.

"I think that's spot on," Dutton said on 2GB radio on Thursday, adding the Warriors' exemption into the country was contingent on health commitments.

"The conditions were obvious and the commitments were made by the NRL before a decision was made to allow them to go ahead.

Facebook image of Shanelle Peeti, partner of Penrith Panthers Rugby League star, Bryce Cartwright
Facebook image of Shanelle Peeti, partner of Penrith Panthers Rugby League star, Bryce Cartwright

"We provided support, obviously, for the players to come from New Zealand, and we did that based on the health advice.

"And the health advice was based on the commitments given by the NRL.

"So I think it's pretty clear cut."

Cartwright's wife Shanelle this week defended the couple's decision not to vaccinate their children, while the pair also received support from the wife of former Manly, Bulldogs and Penrith star Frank Winterstein.

In lengthy Instagram posts on Wednesday, well known anti-vaxxer Taylor Winterstein, who believes coronavirus is a "scam", said everyone deserves the "freedom to choose" as she blasted critics who "constantly slander" people who don't vaccinate.

The Cartwrights and Wintersteins are firm in their views.
The Cartwrights and Wintersteins are firm in their views.

However, Dutton said the anti-vaccination movement had been discredited for some time and not even religious beliefs are grounds for exemption.

"We shouldn't give any credibility to people that preach what is a religion for some, for a small minority, because it's dangerous," he said.

"There are lots of young people out there who look to these players as role models, as heroes in their lives, and they shouldn't be hearing these messages.

"I think that's an important part of the discussion as well.

"But the commitments have been made by the players, by the administrators, and they should be adhered to."

Cartwright took to social media on Wednesday to say he won't be bullied into getting a flu shot.

Cartwright and the Raiders trio put a line through a sentence stating players accept being at greater risk of contracting influenza without the injection.

"I won't be bullied into making decisions that could impact my health and the health of my family," he posted on social media.

"Giving us the ultimatum of get(ting) the shot or be stood down is coercion and leaking private medical information is illegal.

"As for me being the first and apparently only one declining the shot is bulls*** and far from the truth."

Originally published as Anti-vaxxers in major win over NRL


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