'Mixed up': NRL star's jab at Scott Morrison over vaccinations

Australian Associated Press
·3-min read
Scott Morrison is pictured in a 50/50 split image next to an Instagram picture of Bryce Cartwright and wife Shanelle.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has irked certain sections of the NRL, after insisting elite athletes must receive flu vaccinations before being cleared to play. Gold Coast player Bryce Cartwright and his wife are publicly against vaccinations. Pictures: Getty Images/Instagram

RLPA player director Dale Copley has backed besieged Gold Coast teammate Bryce Cartwright, taking aim at Prime Minister Scott Morrison's call for NRL players to cop bans if they refuse a flu shot.

Copley also criticised the "pretty ordinary" media coverage of Cartwright, claiming the fellow Titan wasn't the only player who had rejected a request to be vaccinated.

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Morrison on Wednesday was adamant NRL players should abide by a "no jab, no play" policy after anti-vaxxer Cartwright polarised the rugby league community with his stance.

Players are required to be vaccinated as part of strict measures to restart the NRL competition on May 28, with the league's biosecurity experts believing they are more susceptible to contracting coronavirus if they get the flu.

Cartwright must explain his actions to NRL chief medical officer Paul Bloomfield after his well documented refusal of a jab, prompting Morrison to weigh in.

"When I was social services minister I started the 'no jab, no play' rule into the childcare facilities," Morrison told 2GB radio on Wednesday.

"And I think the same rule applies there - no jab, no play."

Copley claimed he had no problem with Cartwright after training on Wednesday, saying Morrison should be standing up for his teammate's freedom of choice.

"I certainly throw my support behind Bryce. I think ScoMo has got his political parties a bit mixed up," Copley said.

"The coalition is the one who is supposed to try and fight for our freedoms.

"Look, it's a crazy issue, it is very divisive (but) I have always been a supporter of freedom of choice and not encroaching on personal liberties.

"I am more than happy for Bryce to make his own decision in that regard."

Dale Copley, pictured here in action for the Titans in 2019.
Dale Copley in action for the Titans in 2019. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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An NRL spokesperson said players who refused to receive the shot would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis amid consultation with club and NRL medical staff.

While reports claimed Cartwright faced a ban, the NRL spokesperson refused to speculate on possible penalties.

The NRL were not aware of other players refusing a shot but Copley said he knew of "several" but would not specify.

"I think that is pretty important to note that he isn't the only one in the NRL who said he wouldn't have it ... probably the media blew it out of proportion compared to what it was," he said.

A Rugby League Players Association spokesman said earlier on Wednesday a player who refused to be vaccinated had the option to sign a waiver in order for them to continue to train while their case was assessed by the NRL.

He said the RLPA strongly recommended flu shots but believed it was not mandatory.

Melbourne back-rower Felise Kaufusi said he had no problem with players refusing the shot.

"I got my shot but I think each to their own and what they believe," he said.

Sydney Roosters' Mitch Aubusson added: "If I'm honest, it is a difficult subject but I think everybody has a right (as an) individual (to decide) what they don't want to put into their body.

"That's up to them and the NRL to sort out."

Cartwright's wife Shanelle justified their position on social media.

"People have the freedom to say what they like, just like we have the freedom to choose which medical procedures we undergo," she posted on Instagram.

"But ultimately the proof is in the pudding. Our kids are a picture of health."