Unvaccinated NRL players in single figures

Troy Whittaker |

With fewer than 10 NRL players remaining unvaccinated, Clint Newton is hopeful that no more will walk away from the competition.

The Rugby League Players Association CEO said it would be a “real shame” if anyone followed the lead of John Asiata, whose refusal to be jabbed led him to depart Canterbury in December.

Notably, two-time premiership-winning Melbourne prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona – who hasn’t been able to train with his team due to Victorian regulations – and North Queensland captain Jason Taumalolo are yet to be vaccinated.

Asofa-Solomona has been linked with a move to Japanese rugby in 2023 but the Storm are striving to reach a resolution so he can return to the club in the coming weeks.

“The positive thing for the whole game is we’re in single figures (of unvaccinated players),” Newton told SEN 1170 on Thursday.

“I think one of the key things here is that without a mandate, 99 per cent of players have got vaccinated.

“Those players that remain unvaccinated, there’s a framework for clubs to work through and players are aware of that and their agents.

“It’s going to largely depend on state government regulations and also stadia restrictions that are in place. We’re hopeful that players will work through that.

“We’re still optimistic about ensuring that we don’t see any other players exit the NRL. 

“We certainly think that will be a real shame for everyone given the fact that I think we can get through it.”

Newton expressed confidence that players who have contracted COVID will quickly regain fitness.

He said the virus had affected players differently, with some being asymptomatic and only learning of their positive result through a daily rapid antigen test at training.

“Players are rebounding and they will be available for trials and for the season,” Newton said.

“It’s not without some risks. The NRL have developed a return to training and playing mandate, which we’re certainly supportive of to make sure we’re monitoring players that have had COVID and making sure they’re returning as safely as possible.”