The federal sports minister has highlighted the truth about why the NRL is copping backlash over their punishments for players breaking social-distancing rules.
Because they’re putting the game’s attempts to restart the 2020 season at risk.
The league's bold bid to resume its competition copped a major body blow this week when three of its stars were fined for flouting social-distance measures.
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Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr ($50,000 each) and Nathan Cleary ($10,000) were also slapped with suspended fines by the NRL for bringing the game into disrepute.
The incidents gave critics ammunition to question the league's ability to follow strict protocol measures required to re-launch its season.
“It's a matter that depends on the performance and the activities of the (NRL) players,” Federal Youth and Sport Minister Richard Colbeck told ABC News.
“My view would be that the players have put all that at risk by their actions.
“That's why it is important that the NRL has taken the action it has to send a strong message. It's not acceptable.”
Both Mitchell and Addo-Carr were also issued with $1000 infringement notices by NSW police for breaching COVID-19 measures last weekend.
A third player, Tyronne-Roberts Davis, was fined from the same incident.
Mitchell and Addo-Carr have also been charged with firearm offences after the latter uploaded videos of him shooting a gun on social media.
“It's obviously a serious charge. They will be appropriately dealt with by the courts as they should be,” Colbeck said.
“I've clearly stated my views that it's a salutary lesson to everybody involved that complying with the law appropriately.
“But also in the circumstances of COVID-19, is going to be really important.
“Because if people don’t, it will jeopardise the opportunity for us to participate in sport and for the codes to recommence.”
Misbehaviour puts NRL restart plans at risk
The league took a major step towards its resumption on Tuesday after agreeing to a 20-round restructured season with broadcasters.
The next step will be for the NRL innovations committee to meet on Wednesday and configure the details around the make-up of a new draw.
The final hurdle will be on Friday, when the national cabinet meets to outline the country's return to elite and community sport.
The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee is in charge of providing recommendations to the federal government regarding health protocols.
Colbeck said the NRL's issues this week will be a factor.
“All the issues in the public arena will be considered a part of that,” he said.
“The important thing is that people are prepared to comply with the protocols in place and we need a demonstration that will be complied with.
“And so the NRL's actions in that sense send a strong message to us around their seriousness about it, and clearly send a strong message to the players.”
Another one. Why should the NRL be trusted to run a competition this year, let alone start it on May 28? https://t.co/5ohxr7nr0x— Chris Urquhart (@chrisurquhart) April 28, 2020
It’s pretty clear footballers can’t be trusted to follow the rules. Doesn’t instil me with much faith they’ll be able to follow the strict bio security guidelines needed to restart the comp. https://t.co/etfhAZoxtV— Mark Gottlieb (@MarkGottlieb) April 28, 2020
NRL: We're confident we have put the right measures in place in order to resume our competition in late May.— Alexander Grant (@AlexGrantOz) April 28, 2020
Nathan Cleary: pic.twitter.com/3w1NU2igNK
Big picture:— Ned Balme (@NedBalmeLives) April 28, 2020
Every time a player stuffs up like this, there's less chance of a return of NRL, less chance of a return of community footy, less chance of a return to work for those in off-field club roles, less chance of any normal winter sporting season.
It's just bloody dumb https://t.co/2bC1wHFaqo