NRL anti-vaxxer set to fight any ban over flu vaccination
Bryce Cartwright will have the opportunity to fight any potential push to have him suspended from the NRL for refusing a flu shot, with the players' union convinced the Gold Coast forward is clear to play.
As revealed by News Corp, Cartwright is the first NRL player to reject a code-wide request to be vaccinated against the flu as part of strict NRL measures to restart the competition.
Already regarded as rugby league's highest profile anti-vaxxer, the Titans forward must now explain his stance to NRL chief medical officer Paul Bloomfield, who has urged every player to receive the shot.
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While there have been suggestions the ARL Commission could attempt to suspend the 25-year-old, RLPA chief executive Clint Newton said Cartwright needs only sign a waiver to ensure he remains available for selection when the competition resumes on May 28.
Despite a media report on Tuesday night suggesting Cartwright had signed the waiver and already been cleared, an NRL spokesperson insisted that no decision had yet been made.
Elsewhere, Gold Coast hooker Nathan Peats also leapt to the defence of his teammate on Instagram, saying there were "several players" who had opted against being vaccinated.
Yet as of last night, it is understood the NRL is not yet aware of any other refusals.
Newton also suggested the issue had not been a major topic of conversation during any phone hook-ups between his members.
An NRL spokesperson added: "All players are required to receive an influenza vaccination as part of our biosecurity protocols.
"Players who for strong health or personal reasons do not want to be vaccinated, will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis in consultation with club and NRL medical experts".
Dr Bloomfield is pushing for all players to receive a flu jab given the effects of COVID-19 are exacerbated if someone is also suffering from influenza.
Yet when asked if he expected Cartwright to be suspended over the issue, Newton replied: "No, that's not our understanding.
"While (the vaccination) has been strongly recommended, if a player objects the RLPA has a level of comfort around the waiver that they will sign to get back to training and playing.
"It's about the player being aware of the risks that come with not being vaccinated."
Gold Coast head of culture Mal Meninga said the club was awaiting further information about Cartwright's availability.
"I'm not quite sure what will happen," Meninga said. "I imagine the government chief medical officer would be reluctant to allow those players to come into camp.
"Those decisions won't be made at club level. It will be made at national level."
Asked if he would be disappointed to lose Cartwright, Meninga continued: "To me, regulations are regulations.
"We're in the bubble under really strict biosecurity measures. The game relies on these measures to be enforced.
"From our point of view, that decision will be taken out of our hands."
Only last year, Cartwright and his wife Shanelle made headlines after opening up on Instagram about the decision not to immunise their two children.
Despite suggestions several players had refused the vaccination, Brisbane CEO Paul White also said he was "not aware if anyone at our club has declined the flu shot".
"My understanding is that if someone refused the flu shot, we can apply for some exemptions and we have to provide some reasons behind that," he added.
"We have an NRL representative that is working within our club so that query would get pushed down the line."
Originally published as NRL anti-vaxxer set to fight any ban over flu vaccination