The crossed-out wording relates to players accepting they are at greater risk of contracting influenza by not receiving the injection. The Raiders will seek an exemption from the NRL to allow the players to train on Thursday until the governing body finalises its position following the “no jab, no play” comments from Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday.
“When I was social services minister, I started the ‘no jab, no play’ rule in the childcare facilities,” Morrison told 2GB radio on Wednesday. “And I think the same rule applies there [with the NRL] – no jab, no play.”
The NRL executive team, led by interim chief Andrew Abdo and chief operating officer Nick Weeks, have finalised a report that was sent to the ARL Commission on Wednesday night, with a recommendation on the sport’s vaccination policy.
The commission will meet on Thursday morning to potentially overrule the current protocol – which allows players to train and play without a vaccination if they sign a waiver – and ban those who don’t receive the injection.
While a flu shot will not prevent a person from contracting COVID-19, the NRL has received medical advice that states the vaccination dramatically reduces the chances of getting influenza, which lowers the immune system and increases the likelihood of getting coronavirus.
The expert report provided to the NRL highlights the increased danger if a person is diagnosed with influenza at the same time as COVID-19.
The decision of the Canberra trio not to sign the waiver came on the same day as Cartwright, a known anti-vaxxer, was allowed to take part in a session with the Gold Coast Titans following his decision to sign a modified waiver.
Dale Copley, Cartwright’s Titans teammate and an RLPA director, was critical of Morrison’s comments and admitted he had no concern training alongside Cartwright.
“I certainly throw my support behind Bryce,” Copley said. “I think ScoMo has got his political parties a bit mixed up. 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. 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.”
Cartwright’s wife Shanelle took to social media to defend the couple’s position on vaccinations.
“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.”
The Cartwrights also received support from the family of former Panthers player Frank Winterstein, with the wife of the ex-NRL player also taking to social media to back the anti-vaccination stance.
“Now the NRL is offering ‘waivers’ to players who make an informed choice not to receive the flu vaccine, which begs the question, if medical professionals are giving exemptions for healthy athletes, why is it almost impossible for parents to get an exemption for their vaccine-injured children who desperately need one?!,” Taylor Winterstein posted.
“We have players in the NRL right now who have vaccine-injured children. So, Dad can get a medical exemption to play rugby league but Dad can’t get a medical exemption for his child who is pre-disposed to severe adverse reactions post vaccination.
The corruption and coercion is so blatantly obvious to me. Now the media are trying to target the Cartwright family, claiming that Bryce Cartwright was the first in NRL to decline the flu vaccine – which is not true. There were at least 2 other players from the Gold Coast Titans who declined the flu vaccine before Bryce – however Bryce was the first player to have his medical records leaked to the media.
“The truth is both Shanelle and Bryce Cartwright are loving, devoted, informed parents who are raising 2 beautiful, healthy, thriving children. They are all a picture of health, a strong family unit and are a clear example of what can happen when parents choose to take back control of their own families health.”
Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald