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Federal Sports Minister warns that NRL’s return could be threatened by players’ breach of social distancing requirements

Federal Sports Minister warns that NRL’s return could be threatened by players’ breach of social distancing requirements
April 30, 2020

Federal Youth and Sport Minister Richard Colbeck has warned that the NRL’s plans to recommence its season on 28th May might be in jeopardy following players having broken social-distancing requirements.

Senator Colbeck, who has previously suggested the NRL’s plans to restart its season next month might be “a bit ambitious”, was interviewed on ABC Radio is the wake of three NRL stars having been fined for flouting social-distancing rules.

Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr (fined $50,000 each) and Nathan Cleary ($10,000) were also slapped with suspended fines by the NRL for bringing the game into disrepute.

The incidents gave critics ammunition to question the league's ability to follow strict protocol measures required to relaunch its season.

Minister Colbeck told the ABC the penalties handed down were "very significant", advising "I think the NRL needed to take very decisive action because clearly they have some submission in front of government with respect to the management of the league restarting again, and players complying with the protocols they put in place will be critical to the success of that.

"I think it's important they send a strong message that they're serious about compliance with protocols and I think the penalties clearly do that."

When asked whether the players' failure to follow the rules indicated the NRL had a problem with operating under physical-distancing rules, Senator Colbeck stated “it's a matter that depends on the performance and the activities of the (NRL) players.

"My view would be that the players have put all that at risk by their actions.

"That's why it is important that the NRL has taken the action it has to send a strong message. It's not acceptable."

As reported by the ABC, NSW Police issued both Mitchell and Addo-Carr $1,000 infringement notices for breaching COVID-19 measures last weekend.

A third player, Tyronne-Roberts Davis, was fined for the same incident.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian joined in the criticism, condemning the players' lack of social distancing.

Premier Berejiklian commented “we always base any decision on health advice and on the ability of an organisation to stick to that health advice.

"We are in a pandemic. It's life and death. You might forego your own safety, but to compromise someone else's safety, that's inexcusable.

"All of us are making huge sacrifices to protect other people.

"And if that doesn't occur - if we don't know that's the intent - that will of course come into our decision-making, to the extent that it (the season restart) is our decision.

"We cannot afford to take chances or endorse any risky behaviour in a situation where lives could be lost because of a flagrant breach of a rule."

Acting NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo said the league was "working day and night" to get the competition restarted.

Abdo was quoted by the ABC as explaining “any setback is a setback for all of us as a game, but I'm not concerned about this particular issue derailing any of those discussions.

"The players know that if they step out of line between now and the competition starting, or once the competition has started, they'll be letting their teammates and the competition down. And that's a significant penalty."

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