'They're not allowed': NRL rocked by religious vaccination controversy

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor
Josh Papalii is reportedly one of three Canberra players refusing the flu shot on religious grounds. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

The NRL is facing fresh controversy over its request for all players to get the flu shot, with three Canberra Raiders players reportedly refusing on religious grounds.

As the NRL continues to move towards a desired restart date of May 28, they’ve asked all players to get the jab in order to lower the chances of someone contracting coronavirus.

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However not all players are on board, with Gold Coast star Bryce Cartwright the most high-profile opponent of the policy.

Players can reportedly sign a waiver if they refuse the shot, however the trio of Canberra players are refusing that as well.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Josh Papalii, Sia Soliola and Joseph Tapine didn’t train with their teammates on Wednesday after earlier this week refusing to sign the waiver in its unmodified state.

The players reportedly crossed out a line on the waiver form stating they accept they are at a higher risk of contracting influenza if they don’t get the jab.

According to veteran journo Paul Kent, the players are refusing the jab on religious grounds.

“There’s some players apparently at the Raiders today who trained separately from the rest of the group because they of Polynesian heritage and their religion says they can’t get the flu shot, they’re not allowed to do that,” Kent said on Fox League Live.

“The NRL is likely to allow those players to continue playing because of their religious convictions but if it’s just a moral viewpoint like Bryce Cartwright you’ll simply be told you’re not playing.

“The fact is the NRL is doing everything to lower the percentage of risk so that means take the flu shot because that will help.

“Religious viewpoints are different to ethical viewpoints and that’s why the ethical deniers will simply be told ‘you don’t have to take the needle, you’re not forced to take the needle, but you will not play NRL this season’.”

But according to SMH journo Michael Chammas, the Canberra players “could end up as part of an NRL anti-vaxxer contingent wiped from the competition for the remainder of the season as the code considers applying a blanket ban to all players who haven't received a flu shot.”

ARLC Chairman Peter V'landys will speak to the players association about the controversy. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Bryce Cartwright hits out at critics

ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys is set to enter talks with the RLPA to encourage players to agree to vaccination after Cartwright polarised the rugby league community with his stance.

An NRL spokesperson said players who refused to receive the shot would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis amid consultation with club and NRL medical staff.

While reports claimed Cartwright faced a ban, the NRL spokesperson refused to speculate on possible penalties.

But V'landys plans to talk with the RLPA players' union and stress the importance of players getting a shot this week.

Unfazed by criticism, Cartwright says he won't be bullied into getting a flu shot after Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for the NRL to adopt a “no jab, no play” approach.

But Cartwright has dug his heels in, saying it would be “coercion” if he was forced to get a jab against his wishes and claimed he was not the only player in the NRL to refuse vaccination.

The Titans star also believed his decision to refuse a jab had been leaked to the media, sparking the “anti-vaxxer” backlash.

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

“The flu shot is not mandatory in the NRL at the moment.

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

“As for me being the first and apparently only one declining the shot is b******t and far from the truth.”

with AAP