Former NRL star Mark Minichiello has weighed in amid the anti-vaccination storm and supported those players rejecting the flu shot, taking aim at Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s “no jab, no play” comments.
Bryce Cartwright and Brian Kelly were stood down by the Gold Coast Titans after the Queensland government said players who don’t receive the vaccination will not be able to train or play.
Cartwright said he stands “for the freedom to choose what goes into our bodies” and he has received support from fellow footballers like Dylan Walker and Mitch Allgood, who posted similar stances on Instagram this weekend.
Medical professionals are advising players to get the flu shot ahead of the proposed season restart on May 28 because getting coronavirus and the flu at the same time is far more dangerous than just contracting COVID-19 on its own.
NSW health minister Brad Hazzard blasted anti-vaxxers when addressing the NRL controversy on Saturday, saying their views are “just plain stupid and dangerous”. The anti-vax movement has been widely discredited by scientists and medical experts.
Minichiello, who played more than 250 NRL games for the Roosters, Rabbitohs and Titans before finishing his career with Hull in the UK Super League, doesn’t believe players should be forced to vaccinate.
The brother of NSW and Australian great Anthony Minichiello, who played for the City Origin side and Italy and describes himself on Instagram as a “corrective holistic exercise and lifestyle coach”, said Cartwright and Co. deserved support.
“I’m seeing a sport dictate to & isolate their players under government pressure. Surely the @nrl have a bigger backbone than to turn on its own players that have the courage to stand up for their human rights,” Minichiello wrote on social media.
“I would also say to players of today, stand up for your teammates,
“We cannot accept this coercion and manipulation of individual players,
“We cannot turn our backs on the players who have courage to stand up for what is right to them. It’s a fundamental human right to choose what can or cannot go into your own body.”
Minichiello accused the NRL of turning a blind eye to players’ “rights of pro-choice” because it was hellbent on returning to the field to improve its dire financial situation, and said Morrison’s comments on the issue were unfair.
“The Australian government immunisation handbook states vaccines must be given voluntarily in the absence of undue pressure, coercion or manipulation,” Minichiello wrote.
“Well @scottmorrisonmp’s ‘no jab, no play’ is in fact coercion and manipulation at the highest level.
“We need to wake up and look at what is coming down the road. If you don’t stand up now for freedom of choice then the precedent is set and our future, our kids future will be WITHOUT freedom of choice.”
It was reported between 10-20 NRL players were refusing the flu shot.
Hazzard said of anti-vaxxers: “If we listen to their messages, we’d still have polio rife in our community.
“I have no tolerance or time for those views.”
On Saturday, Cronulla star Wade Graham said players refusing flu shots because it was their “personal preference” should just get vaccinated for the good of their teams and the game, calling it a “no-brainer”.
“If they were in my team I’d be asking them to get the flu shot done,” Graham said on Triple M.
“It’s a team sport, right. So you do things that are not your personal preference a lot of the time and for me this is simple. Get the shot done so your teammates can get to playing.
“A lot of people have worked hard to get us in this position to give us an opportunity and for something as simple as this, for me it’s a no-brainer.”
Brisbane Broncos and Queensland Origin legend Gorden Tallis said players who don’t get the flu shot, if it is made mandatory across the league, should be stood down without pay.
“Why don’t we just say to those players that don’t want to get it, that means you don’t want it so if you don’t play you don’t get paid and the game moves on?” Tallis told Triple M.
Fox Sports chief NRL reporter James Hooper urged NRL anti-vaxxers to “look at the bigger picture”.
“I can understand that some players want to stand up for their rights and it is personal choice, but at the same time you have got to look at the bigger picture,” he said.
“It is a flu jab. It is a needle and a vaccine. You are not going to die.”
Speaking on the Sunday Footy Show, rugby league legend and NSW Origin coach Brad Fittler said: “Get the shot, boys. Seriously. Just get on with the show.”