Secret weapon in NRL's vaccine war with players

2 months ago 18
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NRL great PAUL GALLEN will appear on Nine's 100% FOOTY on Monday night, debating rugby league's hottest topics alongside Phil Gould and James Bracey. Tune in from 9.40pm AEST, following all the action of Round 23!

How there's any debate over players being vaccinated against COVID-19 at the end of this season is beyond me.

I'm not an anti-vaxxer, nor am I pro-vaccines. I judge everything on its merits, and take the advice of the experts, and in this case it seems so clear-cut. Me? I've already had my first dose.

But this isn't just about rugby league. This is about getting our lives back to normal.

The players who don't want to get it, that's their personal choice, and I don't know whether the NRL can ban them from playing.

But there will come a time when the state governments effectively ban them, because they might prevent them from travelling. If you're based in Sydney and haven't been vaccinated, well you might not be able to play at Suncorp Stadium or AAMI Park, or over in New Zealand.

Players have been forced to wear masks on the bench in 2021. (Getty)

If your gun player can't play against the Broncos or the Storm, well that's an issue the clubs will take seriously. The quickest and easiest way to fix it is to tell the players they can't play. Take away the possibility of playing the game they love, and most will have a re-think.

If that doesn't work, the clubs might need to look at financial penalties in player's contracts. It's as simple as that.

We can sugar coat it all we want, but if you tell the players they can't play if they're not vaccinated, they'll be getting vaccinated.

There's always going to be that very small minority who hold out for different reasons. But as soon as you link it to their ability to play or earn money, I guarantee they'll change their minds quick smart.

NRL boss Peter V'landys. (Getty)

Last year we had the drama with the flu shots, and a few blokes kicked up a stink, but at the end of the day, rugby league is a job. The players have to provide for themselves and their families. You're not going to let yourself, or your family, down.

One thing I can totally understand is a reluctance to get vaccinated before the end of this season, because there's the possibilities of side effects, which seem to differ from person to person.

We're so close to the finals series, and the players have worked so hard to get this far, that they're not going to be willing to have a possible disruption so close to the end of the season.

But if one of the options is giving everyone their first jab before they leave Queensland at the end of the season, I'm all for it.

Bryce Cartwright was involved in a storm over flu vaccinations in 2020. (Getty)

The game just has to get back to normal. It's not sustainable as it is. The NRL doesn't have a bottomless pit of money. This year alone has cost a ridiculous amount of money, plus the disruption to everyone's lives of having everyone in Queensland.

It's an astronomical amount of money, and that came on the back of having to do the same thing last year. With no crowds, and no home games to sell merchandise, the damage will be felt financially for years to come.

You're going to have to go and ask sponsors to pay top dollar for 2022, and quite reasonably they're going to point out that they've done that for two years for little return.

Corporate boxes have been empty. There's ramifications everywhere, so we have to do everything we can to get the game back to normal. Forget about rugby league for a moment, let's just get our life back to normal.

Players from Sydney may not be able to travel to Suncorp Stadium in 2022 if they're not vaccinated against COVID-19. (Sportsfile via Getty Images)

We're talking about rugby league players, but they're also human beings who are part of everyday society, and they want to get back to normal life like everyone else.

The game of rugby league brings together such a diverse group of people. You've got 35 players turning up every day, plus staff who are probably aged from 20s-60s. That's why it has to be one-in, all-in.

We know that if you're vaccinated you can still catch COVID-19, so if you've got one or two players holding out, it puts the whole team in jeopardy. Imagine if you ruined your team's season, or passed the virus on to an older person at the club, or in your family.

This is about life. We've just got to do it. We keep bringing this back to rugby league, but it's more than that. We've just got to do it to get back to normal.

No-one is enjoying these lockdowns. No-one. Everything about this is hard. Forget the fact we're talking about rugby league here, just for the sake of everyone's sanity, let's get the players vaccinated and get the game back on track in 2022.

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