'Wake-up call': NRL heavyweights stood down over virus breaches

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·Sports Reporter
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Paul Vaughan (pictured left) looking tired in the NRL match and Wayne Bennett (pictured right) during training.
Paul Vaughan (pictured left) and Wayne Bennett (pictured right) have been placed on Covid hold after breaching teh NRL's biosecurity bubble. (Getty Images)

The NRL has stood down both Wayne Bennett and Dragons forward Paul Vaughan for two weeks after the pair breached the code’s strict biosecurity bubble in seperate incidents.

On Thursday The Daily Telegraph first reported the South Sydney coach visited an Italian restaurant in Leichhardt with his partner.

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Also on Thursday, Vaughan acknowledged he had visited a cafe in Illawarra, thus breaking the NRL’s biosecurity protocols.

Following an investigation into the incidents, the NRL slapped both with a two-week ‘Covid hold’.

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Initial reports suggested the 29-year-old prop had signed into the cafe using a ‘fake name’, via a tweet from Channel Nine’s Danny Weidler, but it has since emerged he never signed in.

“Vaughan says he didn’t sign in to cafe - lack of name led why to suggestion he used a false name,” Weidler wrote.

“He didn’t know there was a sign in.”

Vaughan apologised for his ‘reckless’ decision, which will see him miss training for two weeks.

"I am very remorseful for the reckless and selfish decision I have made," Vaughan said in a statement.

"Everyone within the Dragons' bubble, including myself, are well aware of the protocols in place. I'm sorry for the harm my actions have caused to the club and my teammates."

Peter V’landys fumes over double breach

Vaughan has been stood down just hours before the Dragons’ Thursday night clash with the Roosters in order to isolate after breaching the code’s coronavirus protocols.

“I just hope the game treats this as a wake-up call,” ARL boss Peter V'landys told AAP.

“They're not just jeopardising the game in the short term. They are jeopardising their own futures for the next two seasons and they're jeopardising future generations of the game of rugby league.

“Because if it shuts down and we can't operate, it will have dire effects for years. Not months, but years.

“Because if they don't (wake up to it), and we don't finish the season, their consequences will be catastrophic.”

V’landys was adamant that swift action by the NRL would stop any concerns from the Queensland government.

Bennett coached Souths players at training on Thursday, with his team set to take on his former side Brisbane on Friday night.

The NRL has been granted an exemption by the Queensland government to have sides travel across the closed state border due to their biosecurity rules being in place.

“We have the protocols in place, they approved the protocols. And we are now administering the protocols,” V'landys said.

“That gives credibility to governments. Because they can see if someone breaches them, we immediately take action.

“I'm confident the government can see we are responsible, and we will take the responsible action when required, because no system is foolproof.”

Kalyn Ponga cleared of breach

The NRL were also initially looking into Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga after a photo surfaced of him at a restaurant.

But the NRL cleared the star after he was only visiting the restaurant to pick up takeaway.

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