Rugby League Players Association CEO Clint Newton said those who didn’t immediately roll up their sleeves shouldn’t be automatically categorised as anti-vaxxers.
“It’s inaccurate to assume that any of the players who have chosen not to receive the influenza vaccine are in some way connected to a political stance,” Newton said.
“There are many different personal circumstances that need to be considered and respected. Players have been professional and supportive as we’ve worked to educate and implement the protocols. Everyone is doing the best they can to bring rugby league back to the community on May 28.
“We were always of the understanding that this would be worked through on a case-by-case basis and that players who abstained from receiving the influenza vaccine would have the ability to sign a waiver.
“[ARLC chairman] Peter [V’landys] has been outstanding throughout this process and has shown compassion and understanding towards the players’ circumstances. We have no reason to believe that this cannot be worked through based on these discussions.
“We are supportive of the process that the NRL is working through with relevant government officials. We are confident that a reasonable outcome can be reached.”
V’landys is hopeful the Queensland government will allow all players to participate in the competition due to the high compliance rate.
“I believe that the players have been fantastic,” V’landys said.
“To get over 97 per cent of the players to do it, to use the words of the chief medical officer in Queensland, is remarkable.
“I hope it encourages other people in the community to do the same thing.
“I thank the players. Our medical advice is there is no [adverse] effect because we have the vast majority to do it.
“What I’m saying to people is use the players who have done it as role models because having the coronavirus and the flu together is not good.
“We urge everyone to have the flu vaccination. When it first came out a month ago, I did it immediately knowing that if I get a sniffle or sore throat, it’s more likely to be COVID-19 because I’ve been vaccinated.
“If you have the flu shot you won’t need to get a coronavirus test every five minutes when you get the sniffle. This will prevent people from getting COVID tests unnecessarily.”
Roosters coach Trent Robinson said none of his players had raised concerns about the flu shot. And while Robinson respected players had a choice, there were now higher expectations on the NRL given the government had worked overtime to help the game return early.
“We’ve had compliance across the board from our guys, but it is a choice, it’s a choice in society, and we’ve seen that for generations with the choice around whether to get vaccinated or not,” Robinson said.
“Because we’ve gone to a higher level and asked the government to come back before other businesses and sports, there is that higher threshold, and that’s where that personal choice we’ve always had has come under the spotlight. I’m not surprised by it.”
Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.