Raiders trio join vaccination protest, threaten NRL restart

The restart of the NRL could be jeopardised as Raiders forwards Sia Soliola, Joe Tapine and Josh Papalli join Titans forward Bryce Cartwright in refusing to sign an unedited version of the vaccination waiver.

May 07, 2020, updated May 07, 2020
Gold Coast Titans take on St George Illawarra at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday. (Photo: AAP Image/Darren England)

Gold Coast Titans take on St George Illawarra at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday. (Photo: AAP Image/Darren England)

The Canberra Raiders will today seek an exemption from the NRL to allow three players to return to training, despite their refusal to get the flu shot.

Raiders forwards Sia Soliola, Joe Tapine and Josh Papalii were told to stay away from training yesterday after they refused to sign an unmodified version of the vaccination waiver.

Instead they crossed out the line “that they are at greater risk of getting the flu if they are not vaccinated”.

It is understood the trio protested the policy on cultural grounds.

Players agreeing to get the flu jab is part of the NRL’s strict biosecurity protocols that were put in place to allow the competition to restart on May 28.

The move by the trio mirrors that of Gold Coast forward Bryce Cartwright, who is also believed to have crossed out the line on the waiver.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday said a “no jab, no play” policy should apply to the NRL.

However, Cartwright said in a social media post that he would not be forced into getting a flu jab.

“I won’t be bullied into making decisions that could impact my health and the health of my family,” he posted on social media.

“Giving us the ultimatum of get the shot or be stood down is coercion and leaking private medical information is illegal.

“As for me being the first and apparently only one declining the shot is bull***t and far from the truth.”

An NRL spokesperson said players who refused to receive the shot would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis in consultation with club and NRL medical staff.

A Rugby League Players’ Association (RLPA) spokesman said a player who refused to be vaccinated had the option to sign a waiver so they could continue to train and be available for selection while their case was dealt with by the NRL.

The spokesman said the RLPA strongly recommended flu shots but believed players who refused should be dealt with case-by-case and that the vaccination was not mandatory.

Cartwright added that he was not an anti-vaxxer.

“I stand for the freedom to choose what goes into our bodies … so to label me an ‘anti-vaxxer’ is spreading misinformation,” he said.

Cartwright’s wife Shanelle posted on social media saying her children were a “picture of health” and that the couple was “not anti anything”.

Titans winger Dale Copley, who is also the RLPA player director, insisted that whether a player got the flu vaccine or not should be a personal choice.

“He [Cartwright] is well and truly able to have the freedom to decide what goes in his body and what doesn’t,” he said.

The Raiders will seek the exemption until the governing body finalises its position.

– ABC / © 2020 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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