Embattled Brisbane Broncos player Tevita Pangai Jr. has been stood down indefinitely by the NRL, with the league also fining the 24-year-old $30,000 for breaching coronavirus rules.
The latest blow places Pangai Jr’s NRL future in further doubt, following reports on Tuesday that the Broncos were considering sacking him, despite signing him to a three-year deal last season.
‘NATION OF DOBBERS’: Anger over 'embarrassing virus farce
Pangai Jr. has been suspended for 14 of his last 36 games for Brisbane, with his visit to a bikie-affiliated barbershop which was later raided by police looming as the last straw for the Broncos.
He will now be excluded from the Broncos’ ‘bubble’ until the league is satisfied he will abide by the rules, as the Queensland government hinted at their frustration over several NRL players and coaches breaching the rules that have allowed the league to continue amid the pandemic.
“We believe this was a case of a player committing multiple contraventions of the protocols and showing a disregard for the league’s rules,’’ interim NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said in a statement.
“We will do everything we can to protect our season.
“Players or officials who show they are unable to comply with the biosecurity protocols will be removed from club bubbles until we are satisfied that they will comply with the protocols.
“We believe in this case, Tevita has not been able to do that.
“This decision protects the health of our playing squads and most importantly the general community.
“I want to reiterate that the overwhelming majority of players and officials are doing the right thing and we thank them for that. Where there are breaches of protocols we will take immediate action to ensure no risk of infection.”
Brisbane Broncos season from hell continues
Already dealing with the fallout from Pangai Jr's barber shop bubble breach and coach Anthony Seibold's legal threat over vile accusations about his personal life, the Broncos' season from hell has hit a new low.
On Wednesday, The Courier Mail revealed that police were investigating reports as many as 10 players were seen socialising at a Queensland hotel, in contravention of the NRL's strict biosecurity measures and an agreement with Queensland Health.
Witnesses claim seeing the group of Broncos players - including Pangai Jr - at the Everton Park Hotel last month.
It's understood Queensland police and the NRL are looking into the incident, in which 10 players enjoyed a pub steak on July 28, in breach of the league's strict coronavirus protocols.
It is understood the group of 10 players lunched with the understanding they were not breaking protocols under what were relaxed Apollo rules at the time.
Rules allow players in Queensland teams when they haven't played a Sydney team in the last 14 days to dine at cafes and restaurants, but not attend pubs.
However, restaurants within pubs are permissible, as long as they remain within that area and seated at a table within their own.
The latest alleged breach from Brisbane comes after a recent warning from ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys and Queensland's chief health officer Dr Jeanette Young that any more indiscretions put the whole season in jeopardy.