NRL stars who refuse to get the Covid-19 jab will be allowed to return to the footy field, but with less freedom than their vaccinated teammates.
The code handed down its new preseason protocols during a phone hook up between league boss Andrew Abdo and all 16 clubs on Thursday.
The NRL recently confirmed players won’t be mandated to get vaccinated, unlike the AFL where they face lengthy time on the sidelines for refusal.
But unvaccinated stars will be subject to a lengthy list of strict new rules, where their training, ability to travel, and daily lives will be severely restricted.
Being unvaccinated could have huge ramifications on Nelson Asofa-Solomona’s future at the Melbourne Storm
They must wear face masks at all times unless at home or at training, use separate bathroom and eating facilities from vaccinated, teammates and have two PCR Covid tests a week.
Using club indoor gyms to train could also be off limits.
Their daily movements will also be restricted and must inform the NRL of their whereabouts on a daily basis, and using public transport is banned.
Attending pubs, clubs and restaurants, visitors to their homes, and going to other households is also off limits.
‘It is clear that those personnel who choose not to be vaccinated against Covid-19 will face significant logistical hurdles in 2022,’ Abdo wrote in an email to clubs.
‘Vaccination not only protects their health and that of those around them, but gives the best chance of an interruption-free 2022 season.’
Unvaccinated NRL players will be forced to wear masks at all times unless they’re at home or training. Pictured are Queensland Origin players arriving at Townsville Airport
It will be up to clubs if they decide to sack vaccinated players but they were asked to exercise caution before tearing up contracts.
‘Clubs may contact the NRL for general assistance on this issue but will ultimately need to take their own legal advice concerning the position of their individual employees and their circumstances (including health order restrictions where the Club is located),’ Abdo added.
‘We are expecting that health orders, including their impact on the unvaccinated, will undergo significant change over the coming weeks (from December 1) so clubs will need to exercise caution in taking immediate steps concerning their players.’
The rules are expected to create headaches for clubs, including the Melbourne Storm in Victoria, where all professional athletes must be vaccinated to play and enter stadiums.
Storm forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona is understood to be the only player at the club yet to receive the jab, which could have ramifications for the Kiwi international’s future at Melbourne.
The Storm remain hopeful Asofa-Solomona will have a change of heart or he faces the possibility of being stood down by the club.
In NSW, unvaccinated players won’t be able to join their teammates for preseason training until December 1 at the earliest (pictured a Penrith Panthers training session)
In NSW, unvaccinated players who return in the coming weeks to prepare for the 2022 season are banned from training with teammates before December 1, forcing clubs to create individual programs.
The Queensland Government is considering forcing teams and all close contacts into 14 days quarantine if an unvaccinated player tests positive, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Abdo said last week some clubs had close to 90 per cent of players and staff vaccinated.
‘Clearly we need to make sure we have continuity to the competition, and we are creating a safe working environment,’ he told Seven News.
‘We are busy working on the protocols for the players who are vaccinated and the players that are not vaccinated. Hopefully we are talking about a very small group of players.
‘They will have, I’d imagine, some pretty rigorous requirements around what they will be able to do in order to train and play.
‘Of course this might be taken out of our hands by health orders or by airlines, so there will be repercussions for those that don’t choose to be vaccinated but it’s not our approach as a governing body to mandate it.’
Unvaccinated players will be confined to using separate bathroom and eating facilities from jabbed teammates (pictured Melbourne Storm players training)