Manly Sea Eagles prop Addin Fonua-Blake has been lambasted for donning a face-mask in front of the media before discussing potential pay cuts for NRL players.
The 24-year-old, who also wore the mask during training on Tuesday, came under fire from veteran NRL scribe Paul Kent.
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The Daily Telegraph writer described Fonau-Blake’s face mask as a ‘smarta**’ stunt’, amid suspicions the Sea Eagles were increasingly unwilling to make players available for media opportunities.
When speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Fonua-Blake said he was concerned about contracting the virus out of fear for his young family.
"I'm not scared, I just don't want to catch anything and take it home with me. I've got four young kids of my own and a partner, so I'd hate to catch something,” he said.
Addin Fonua-Blake from Manly says he’s worried about getting sick 🤢 and that to wear a mask 😷 is his decision. pic.twitter.com/AAFCkl3nsj— Julian Abbott (@JulianBAbbott) March 16, 2020
Later in the press conference, Fonua-Blake hit back at suggestions players would have to take a pay cut in light of the pandemic, due to concerns over the NRL’s precarious financial situation.
“If you sign a contract and a contract says you'll be paid X amount, you're owed X amount whether you play or not," he said.
"It might be a bit unfair on older players that maybe took a pay cut or younger players coming through that aren't on as much money as certain players that have to pay bills and pay rent and stuff like that.”
Fonua-Blake called out over ‘joke’ stunt
Kent, however, wasn’t buying it.
After dismissing Fonua-Blake’s face mask as a stunt, Kent said he wasn’t convinced Fonua-Blake was taking the pandemic seriously.
“I’m not convinced it was entirely about his own welfare and safety,” Kent said.
“Manly have been pushing back. I think they’ve used this whole pandemic as an opportunity to try and do less and less media.
“They’ve assured us this isn’t the case, but I know they’ve certainly been doing that.
“That was basically a smarta** way to say they don’t want to do it.”
Kent’s NRL 360 co-host James Hooper was in agreement, suggesting the Sea Eagles players continued to treat the spread of the virus as a ‘joke’.
“That looked as though maybe they were having a bit of banter behind the scenes,” Hooper said.
“I know we’re being told that’s not the case, but it looks like it’s a joke.”