NRL boss Andrew Abdo has accepted the Queensland state government's decision to bar unvaccinated people from venues such as stadiums from December 17 onwards.
Acknowledging the move was certain to impact the handful of NRL players yet to be vaccinated against Covid-19, Abdo nevertheless said the measures had the full support of the league.
The NRL has not made it a requirement for players to be vaccinated, preferring to defer to state government rules, but has nonetheless invested heavily in ensuring the majority of the league was vaccinated.
Speaking as the state passed that 80% threshold of people over the age of 12 being fully vaccinated, Queensland premier Annastacia Palasczuk said 'tough decisions' had to be made.
From the 17th of December, unvaccinated people in Queensland will not be permitted to visit places such as hospitals, aged care facilities and stadiums.
“These are tough decisions, but they are in the best interests of families and keeping people safe in this state,” Palaszczuk said.
The stadium decision is sure to affect a handful of players, with the likes of Melbourne Storm's Nelson Asofa-Solomona and Canterbury's Luke Thompson among roughly 20 players in the league who are yet to be vaccinated.
Players will not be allowed to train or play at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium, the Gold Coast's Cbus Super Stadium and Townsville's Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
“We’ve always said we’ll adhere to the public health orders,” Abdo confirmed at the league's fixture announcement for 2022.
“If the public health order says you can’t enter the stadium, you need to be vaccinated, then those players won’t be able to train and play.”
While the league is hopeful they can convince the remaining holdouts to ensure they are protected from Covid-19, Abdo said the NRL was thrilled with the broader uptake among teams and players.
A handful of NRL teams are 100% vaccinated, while Abdo said 'well over' 90% of the playing group was vaccinated.
Storm's Asofa-Solomona vax deadline looms
Asofa-Solomona has until the end of the week to budge from his anti-vaccination position, with Melbourne still hopeful the representative prop will get the jab so he can join the NRL team's pre-season training.
Asofa-Solomona is the sole Storm player resisting COVID-19 vaccination.
In Victoria, it has already been mandated professional athletes must be vaccinated to attend their workplace.
That means unvaccinated players and fans will not be able to attend at least three NRL round one games in March which are scheduled for Queensland.
Storm chief executive Justin Rodski said they were continuing discussions with Asofa-Solomona, who last week posted an anti-vaccination video on his social media.
With three weeks required between jabs, he needs to have his first by the end of this week.
"He's still got a little bit of time to make his decision on whether or not he wants to be vaccinated and we're really hopeful he does and he can return to training on December 7 and begin his preparations," Rodski said.
"He has this week to make that decision and then it starts to impact his pre-season and his training.
"In saying that there's still pathways for him to return to training and playing next year and we're working through what that framework looks like and the contractual considerations are but it's obviously a really complicated issue."
Rodski said he wasn't aware of other clubs approaching Asofa-Solomona.
Rodski admitted the situation would be far simpler if the NRL had followed the lead of the AFL and made player vaccinations mandatory across the competition.
"From a code perspective if the NRL had mandated vaccinations the pathway through this would be much clearer ... now each individual club is required to work through it and each club has a very different set of circumstances it needs to consider," he said.
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