'We're hopeful': Melbourne Storm nerves over prop's vax stance

·Sports Reporter
·3-min read
Melbourne Storm's Nelson Asofa-Solomona has reportedly refused to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to date.
Melbourne Storm's Nelson Asofa-Solomona is reportedly reluctant to be vaccinated against Covid-19, putting the club into a dilemma. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The Melbourne Storm have admitted they face the prospect of having to play without prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona, as the 25-year-old's reluctance to be vaccinated against Covid-19 continues.

NRL players are included in sweeping vaccine mandates in Victoria, which require all authorised workers to be fully vaccinated before they can go back to work.

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Rugby league is yet to follow suit with the AFL and require all players to be vaccinated, however the Storm fall under the Victorian state government's rule - meaning Asofa-Solomona must be vaccinated in order to train and play at Aami Park.

In a recent press conference, Storm boss Justin Rodski confirmed one Melbourne Storm players was yet to be vaccinated but declined to say who it was - however Channel 9 later confirmed it was Asofa-Solomona.

The NRL on Thursday revealed to clubs the competition's Apollo Protocols for the 2022 pre-season and has opted to stick with its decision not to follow the AFL in mandating the COVID-19 vaccine.

Rodksi said that the club maintained hope that Asofa-Solomona would get the jab in time to return for pre-season training in December.

"We're hopeful that everyone will be vaccinated in time to return to pre-season," Rodski told AAP.

"There's one (player) who's still remaining but they've got time still before they return so that's certainly our hope."

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews this week locked out unvaccinated tennis players from the Australian Open and Rodski said the same would apply to NRL games played in Melbourne.

"We're in the exact same position so any player, staff member, fan, volunteer who enters in AAMI Park must be double vaccinated," Rodski said.

"It's part of the Victorian government health order for authorised workers, which includes athletes.

"The AFL has mandated a policy around vaccination so they won't have that issue for players from other teams travelling interstate but in the NRL a player unvaccinated from another team won't be able to play the Storm in Melbourne."

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Unvaccinated players returning to training next month face a raft of strict conditions under the new Apollo Protocols.

With some clubs resuming training from November 1, the NRL said clubs would operate under two Apollo registers - A for fully vaccinated players and officials and B for those who have yet to have either a single or double jab.

The latter group must remain in a bubble - wear a mask at all times, undergo daily rapid antigen testing as well as a weekly PCR test, stay home other than for essential reasons and avoid social settings such as cafes and bars.

Clubs must also provide separate eating and bathroom areas for unvaccinated players, while in some instances they are unable to train with their squad.

Nelson Asofa-Solomona's Melbourne Storm career could be in jeopardy thanks to his anti-vaccination stance.
Nelson Asofa-Solomona faces potentially being disallowed from playing or training with the Melbourne Storm unless he gets vaccinated against Covid-19. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

As well as Melbourne, the Bulldogs, Sharks and Dragons use stadium facilities for training, with unvaccinated persons unable to visit under NSW government health orders.

The NRL says the current vaccination rate for players is between 90-95 per cent and it is hopeful it will be 100 per cent by round one.

While the NRL has given clubs the power to mandate vaccination, it warned them against terminating contracts in the short term.

It says it expects government health orders, including their impact on the unvaccinated, to undergo significant change from December 1.

With AAP

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