The NRL is still on track to be the first major sporting competition to recommence during the Covid-19 pandemic, despite some player opposition to plans for compulsory flu vaccination. At present, the NRL’s grandiosely titled “Project Apollo” committee has scheduled rugby league’s recommencement for 28 May.
The revised draw is still to be released, but all games are expected to take place in NSW. Queensland teams will be permitted to travel interstate, while the NZ Warriors were granted a travel exemption and flew directly into their new home base of Tamworth earlier this month.
NRL Anti-Vaxxers Allowed to Play
The most high-profile hurdle thus far has been the anti-vaccine stance of some of the NRL’s players. The NRL initially required all players to receive the flu vaccine as part of its “biosecurity” due diligence pitch to state governments, but around 3% of players refused the vaccine.
The Australian Rugby League Commission then made a subtle adjustment to the waiver these players were expected to sign in order to allow them to participate.
“There was a clause that it would cause a health risk if they weren’t vaccinated, which they don’t believe,” explained Chairman Peter V’landys. “We have changed it to say they acknowledge the doctors have told them it is a health risk.”
QLD-based players, however, have not been so lucky. Bryce Cartwright and Brian Kelly have been stood down by the Gold Coast Titans, after the QLD government made it clear they would not be permitted to travel interstate. The NRL sought an exemption for them, which was denied.
For his part, NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard commented, “I am extremely frustrated generally at anti-vaxxers and the message they send out. It’s just plain stupid and dangerous.”
Anti-Vaxxers in the NRL
A few NRL players initially stated a preference not to be vaccinated, saying they had experienced bad reactions in the past. This included the Gold Coast Titans’ Nathan Peats, who has subsequently been vaccinated.
Others have been more outspoken. Bryce Cartwright and wife Shannon Cartwright are proud not to be vaccinated. They have posted online that “the proof is in the pudding,” given that their children are “a picture of health.” A Rich Life thinks being the children of two athletic individuals with plenty of income might have more than a little to do with it.
High-profile Manly Sea Eagles and former NSW State of Origin player Dylan Walker has also vocally opposed the flu vaccine.
A Rich Life spoke to a medical doctor at the Adelaide Children’s Hospital about the study circulating on social media. We’ll not name the Good Doctor today given the risk of harassment by lunatics.
Most importantly the Doctor we spoke to observed “the ‘coronavirus’ in the study would be one of the four seasonal coronavirus strains that cause the common cold.”
“They tested for about 10 seasonal viruses and then asked the subjects whether they’d been vaccinated. Different results for each one, but for coronavirus positive subjects they were more likely to have been vaccinated.
“The main conclusion I’d draw from it is that people who are prone to respiratory illnesses are more likely to get the flu vaccine.”
But the final word should perhaps go the Rugby League Players Association director and Cronulla Sharks Captain Wade Graham, whose message inadvertently spoke to much more than rugby league.
“It’s not an individual sport and you need to do things sometimes that are not in your comfort zone or that aren’t in your best interests for the greater good of the team,” said Graham.
“That’s what great teams are built on.”