Former NRL star Mark Minichiello has weighed in on the furore surrounding vaccinations in the NRL, taking exception to Scott Morrison’s ‘coercive’ comments.
The NRL's restart on May 28 has hit a hiccup with around 20 players refusing to be vaccinated for various reasons, including past adverse reactions to the flu shot and religious reasons.
On Friday, the Gold Coast Titans confirmed Bryce Cartwright and Brian Kelly were both stood down for refusing the vaccination after an intervention by the Queensland government.
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That came after Prime Minister Morrison stated his belief that the NRL should implement a ‘no jab, no play’ policy.
A number of leading voices in the NRL have since expressed their opinions for or against mandatory vaccinations, and now it’s Minichiello’s turn.
Minichiello, who describes himself as a “corrective holistic exercise and lifestyle coach” on Instagram, says he doesn’t think players should be forced to vaccinate.
“I’m seeing a sport dictate to & isolate their players under government pressure,” he wrote on Sunday.
“Surely the @nrl have a bigger backbone than to turn on its own players that have the courage to stand up for their human rights.
“I would also say to players of today, stand up for your teammates.
“We cannot accept this coercion and manipulation of individual players,
“We cannot turn our backs on the players who have courage to stand up for what is right to them. It’s a fundamental human right to choose what can or cannot go into your own body.”
The former Roosters, Rabbitohs and Titans player also took aim at Morrison’s comments.
“The Australian government immunisation handbook states vaccines must be given voluntarily in the absence of undue pressure, coercion or manipulation,” he wrote.
“Well @scottmorrisonmp’s ‘no jab, no play’ is in fact coercion and manipulation at the highest level.
“We need to wake up and look at what is coming down the road. If you don’t stand up now for freedom of choice then the precedent is set and our future, our kids future will be WITHOUT freedom of choice.”
Health Minister slams ‘stupid’ anti-vaxxers
Fellow Titan Nathan Peats and Manly's Marty Taupau both hesitated to get the shot due to past adverse reactions, but eventually had the injection.
As of Saturday afternoon, the Titans were still awaiting confirmation from Cartwright and Kelly over whether they would agree to be immunised and resume training.
It's understood Dylan Walker, Addin Fonua-Blake, Josh Papalii, Joseph Tapine, Iosia Soliola and Canterbury's Sione Katoa all signed a waiver to remain compliant under the NRL's guidelines and continue training.
NSW health minister Brad Hazzard slammed the anti-vaccination rhetoric on Saturday, saying those views are “just plain stupid and dangerous.”
“If we listen to their messages, we’d still have polio rife in our community,” he said.
“I have no tolerance or time for those views.”
Wade Graham calls for team-first thinking
Cronulla captain Wade Graham also called out anti-vaxxers on Saturday, saying they should put their teammates above their own personal preferences.
Although the Sharks' squad has been vaccinated, Graham said players who put their individual circumstances above their team should be reminded they play a team sport.
“If it was a pure personal preference, I'd say it's a team sport boys,” he told Triple M.
“It's not an individual sport and you need to do things sometimes that are not in your comfort zone, or that are not in your best interests, for the greater good of the team.
“That's what great teams are built on.
“I think in this situation, you have to not think about your own personal situation and think about the rest of the playing group.”