Fittler questions ScoMo’s blunt demand
RLPA player director Dale Copley has backed besieged Gold Coast teammate Bryce Cartwright while footy legend Brad Fittler has also questioned Prime Minister Scott Morrison's call for NRL players to cop bans if they refuse a flu shot.
Morrison on Wednesday was adamant NRL players should abide by a "no jab, no play" policy after Cartwright polarised the rugby league community with his stance he would refuse a compulsory flu shot.
Players are required to be vaccinated as part of strict measures to restart the NRL competition on May 28, with the league's biosecurity experts believing they are more susceptible to contracting coronavirus if they get the flu.
Cartwright must explain his actions to NRL chief medical officer Paul Bloomfield after his well documented refusal of a jab, prompting Morrison to weigh in. "When I was social services minister I started the 'no jab, no play' rule into the childcare facilities," Morrison told 2GB radio on Wednesday.
"And I think the same rule applies there (in the NRL) - no jab, no play."
Fittler, the former Roosters five-eighth and NSW Origin coach, maintained he was definitely "not an anti-vaxxer at all", but questioned why Morrison came out with such a strong stance.
"I'm not sure why Scott Morrison demands that everyone has it," Fittler said on 2GB's Wide World of Sports radio. "The flu shot ... I've never seen it as something that was mandatory or that I felt I had to have every year."
It is reported contracting the flu puts you at greater risk of becoming infected with coronavirus.
Copley claimed he had no problem with Cartwright after training on Wednesday, saying Morrison should be standing up for his teammate's freedom of choice.
"I certainly throw my support behind Bryce. I think ScoMo has got his political parties a bit mixed up," Copley said. "The coalition is the one who is supposed to try and fight for our freedoms.
"Look, it's a crazy issue, it is very divisive (but) I have always been a supporter of freedom of choice and not encroaching on personal liberties.
"I am more than happy for Bryce to make his own decision in that regard."
An NRL spokesperson said players who refused to receive the shot would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis amid consultation with club and NRL medical staff. While reports claimed Cartwright faced a ban, the NRL spokesperson refused to speculate on possible penalties.
Copley said he knew of "several" other players unwilling to get the flu shot but would not specify who.
"I think that is pretty important to note that he isn't the only one in the NRL who said he wouldn't have it ... probably the media blew it out of proportion compared to what it was," he said.
A Rugby League Players Association spokesman said earlier on Wednesday a player who refused to be vaccinated had the option to sign a waiver in order for them to continue to train while their case was assessed by the NRL. He said the RLPA strongly recommended flu shots but believed it was not mandatory.
Melbourne back-rower Felise Kaufusi said he had no problem with players refusing the shot.
"I got my shot but I think each to their own and what they believe," he said.
Sydney Roosters' Mitch Aubusson added: "If I'm honest, it is a difficult subject but I think everybody has a right (as an) individual (to decide) what they don't want to put into their body.
"That's up to them and the NRL to sort out."
The debate has prompted ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys to enter talks with the RLPA to encourage players to agree to flu shots ahead of their May 28 restart.
"We want them to have flu shots because it minimises risk to the game and the player," he said. "This is part of protocols and we expect players to follow them.
"We are meant to be all in this together. I've given the RLPA an undertaking that we will always work with them first to see if a solution can be found."
Cartwright and his wife Shanelle have both justified their position on social media.
Originally published as Fittler questions ScoMo's blunt demand