NRL Cracks Down on COVID Breaches

by Sonia Hickey
Suncorp Stadium

State of Origin Player Jai Arrow faces a $35,000 fine and a two-game suspension after allegedly breaching a public health order by bringing an ‘unregistered guest’, understood to be a dancer, back to the Gold Coast hotel where Queensland players are in isolation. 

Mr Arrow has been sent home and is now in 14 days isolation. 

A string of breaches

Just last week, NSW police slapped 13 NRL players with fines of $1,000 each for attending a party. 

Party host Paul Vaughan was given a $50,000 fine and sacked from the St George Dragons. 

Other players fined over the attendance are Blake Lawrie ($20,000), Corey Norman ($50,000), Daniel Alvaro ($15,000), Jack Bird ($25,000), Josh Kerr ($18,000), Josh McGuire ($12,000), Kaide Ellis ($5,000), Matt Dufty ($23,000), Tyrell Fuimaono ($12,000), Zac Lomax ($31,000), Gerard Beale ($2,000) and de Belin ($42,000).

Jack de Belin ‘hid under the bed’

The actions of Jack de Belin during the attendance of police have perhaps drawn the greatest ire from fans and the general community. 

The club stood by Mr de Belin for two-and-a-half years as he faced serious sexual assault allegations

After two hung juries, all charges against him were dropped in May this year. 

He has only played four games for the St George Dragons since returning to the league. The fact and then reportedly lied to the NRL integrity unit by saying he was out walking his dog at the time, has some questioning whether he should remain on the team at all. 

Level 4 Biosecurity rules

New South Wales NRL players are under stricter Level 4 biosecurity orders set down by the state government, so that the NRL competition can continue. 

Similar restrictions were put in place for the State of Origin teams. 

Under these rules, the players are not allowed to leave home / the hotel unless they are playing or training, and they are not allowed visitors. 

The NRL has retained a tough stance on the biosecurity sanctions because they are compulsory for keeping the game going. 

A number of fines have been handed out in recent weeks including a $50,000 fine issued to the Canterbury Bulldogs for failing to properly inform its squad of new Covid-19 restrictions before five players visited a Bondi pub.

The players have also been slapped with almost $10,000 in fines between them, with Dylan Napa hit the heaviest with a $5,000 sanction. The group was also forced into isolation for a fortnight. 

Cronulla player Josh Dugan was fined $25,000 for visiting a restaurant and ordered to stay away from the Sharks squad for a fortnight.

The financial penalties are hefty, but these are young men on salaries well able to afford them. 

Too much privilege?

However, living in this incredible bubble of privilege, some of them fail to understand just how fortunate they are right now, to still be ‘working’ when so many Australians are facing lockdowns, sitting helpless, watching their own businesses fail. 

There are job losses, cutbacks to hours and dire financial hardships being felt by thousands of fans and supporters — the kind hardships which these young men will never know. 

Professional sport has been allowed to continue, despite the fact that many other events have been cancelled. Why? Well, there’s the financial factor, but there’s also an important social and psychological factor. Professional sport has the ability to provide a sense of ‘normalcy’, hope, and community spirit during this time of incredible uncertainty. 

But sitting on the sidelines, it’s clear that a number of these young men just aren’t taking that role seriously. This is not something new. 

Their ability to be good ‘role models’ for younger generations has long been questioned as we’ve witnessed players regularly behaving ‘badly’ on and off the field, with several facing criminal charges. Last month former NRL golden boy Jarryd Hayne was sentenced to three years and eight months behind bars for sexual assault. 

While the NRL is desperately trying to change the image of the game and to keep players in line, it is an uphill battle while many of these young men seem to think that they are above the current health directives and also the law.

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Author

Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice, and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team.

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