Gold Coast Titans pair Bryce Cartwright and Brian Kelly have been given 48 hours to decide whether or not they will accept a flu jab and avoid being stood down for the season.
The NRL’s reported request for unvaccinated players to be cleared to play in Queensland this season was shut down on Tuesday, effectively wiping out Cartwright and Kelly for the 2020 premiership.
Queensland Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young on Tuesday said the government will only grant flu-shot exemptions to NRL players on medical grounds. She stated personal beliefs and ethical concerns are not covered in the list of exemptions.
The Titans duo have not trained with the NRL squad since the Queensland government held firm on a ‘no jab, no play’ policy it believes was promised in the game’s biosecurity guidelines.
Young also confirmed interstate players who have not received this year’s common flu jab will not be allowed to fly into Queensland — a key component of the special exemptions the NRL is pursuing in a bid to allow teams to “fly in-fly out” for competition games.
On Tuesday evening, the Gold Coast Titans revealed they had given Cartwright and Kelly two days to make a decision.
“The Gold Coast Titans have made formal requests to Bryce Cartwright and Brian Kelly to obtain up-to-date influenza and, as required, pneumococcal vaccinations,” a statement read.
“Doing so will enable each player to meet the requirements of the Queensland State Government’s protocols allowing Queensland-based NRL Clubs to train and play.
“In turn, this will allow both players to resume training and to play with the Titans when the NRL Telstra Premiership resumes on May 28.
“Both players have been asked to notify the Club of their agreement with this direction by Thursday 14 May.”
Cartwright and Kelly are reportedly among 20 players to have refused the NRL’s request for all players to receive a common flu shot before the season restarts.
However, they are reportedly the only two Queensland-based players. Manly duo Dylan Walker and Addin Fonua-Blake, Canterbury rake Sione Katoa plus Canberra trio Josh Papalii, Sia Soliola and Joseph Tapine are also reported to have refused the shot.
Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chairman Peter V’landys had been confident the Queensland government would accept their biosecurity guidelines that would allow NRL players to sign a waiver to refuse the vaccination and still play.
But Young said on Tuesday she had told the NRL they would only provide exemptions for players who have had adverse reactions to vaccinations.
“I sent a letter to the NRL yesterday in which I did exempt them for medical contrary indications, no different to the exemptions I provide for children who are attending child care or for people going to aged care so they have those same exemptions,” she said.
“If they have got medical reasons for not being vaccinated (they will receive an exemption).
“If they have had an anaphylactic reaction to previous flu vaccine or any component of a flu vaccine, you do not need to be vaccinated so I have provided that exemption.”
Asked if players could receive an exemption on any other grounds, Young said: “That’s not covered.
“Although the NRL did not put that in their initial submission to me I thought it was reasonable that the NRL players and support staff, coaches and officials have that same exemption that I provide for visitors going into aged-care facilities or for children.”
It is a blow for the Titans who look set to seek clarity from the NRL over potential compensation in their 32-man squad while Cartwright and Kelly are stood down.
Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald reports the club is also considering cutting off the pair from their scheduled monthly payments if they remain stood down because of their hold out against the flu jab.
The report claims the Titans would consider ripping up Cartwright’s reported $600,000 per season deal if he is unavailable to play — on the grounds that his current exile from teammates and training is the result of personal beliefs.
Titans culture manager Mal Meninga said the club had been disadvantaged by having just 30 players in their training squad, with the duo sidelined for refusing the jab.
They are the only two players in the competition who have been stood down.
“We’re not quite sure how it’s all going to pan out if we get any compensation for those guys making those decisions, personal decisions that will put the team at a disadvantage and the club at a disadvantage,” Meninga told Fox Sports.
Cartwright is not expected to budge on his anti-vaccination beliefs while Meninga said Kelly has been spoken to by health experts, including an indigenous specialist, to help him understand the vaccinations.
— with AAP