RLPA to meet NRL over COVID protocols

George Clarke |

The Rugby League Players’ Association aim to sit down with the NRL to thrash out revised COVID-19 protocols after players were placed in level-one restrictions over the New Year’s weekend.

Under the NRL’s existing framework, players were informed last week they must stay away from indoor venues such as restaurants, pubs and cinemas despite the season not kicking off until March.

It led to criticism from leading players such as Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr and Jack Wighton, with the latter posting on social media: “Thought I was getting the stupid vax so I didn’t have to do another year of this s**t.”

With over 90 per cent of the Australian population over the age of 16 now double jabbed and rapid antigen tests readily available, RLPA chief executive Clint Newton wants to sit down and discuss updated terms.

“We have the tools at our disposal to create a safe workplace and we want to get things in a position where players can live their lives like the rest of the community,” Newton told AAP.

“COVID-19 protocol restrictions are something players are frustrated with and we share those frustrations with the players, particularly in situations when they have been implemented without players being consulted and properly communicated with.

“This gives us a great opportunity, which is what we’ve requested from (NRL chief executive) Andrew Abdo, is to get together now.

“The importance of protocols over the last two years are not in dispute. This is now about the restrictions that are over and above the community.

“Players rolled up their sleeves and got the jab and I don’t think what the players are asking for are outrageous requests. Given the fact how much compliance falls on players, giving them a forum to ask questions is paramount.”

Pre-season training has been disrupted by positive cases at Brisbane and Penrith after Christmas, while Canberra and the Wests Tigers were impacted prior to the festive break.

All but a handful of NRL players are double jabbed. 

While cases earlier in the year might lessen the impact on the NRL schedule, mass infections across squads have forced postponements in the Big Bash League and the A-League.

Newton will therefore raise the issue of clubs being able to use players from outside of their top-30 squad should a club be hit by a wave of positive cases.

“We can be innovative and adaptable without denying people their freedom,” he said.

“We would love a commitment on player availability for in-season (positive cases).

“I think by working together we can find a solution, but we need all the stakeholders at the table to come up with some viable options.”