NRL anti-vaxxers cave over pay threat
The NRL's anti-vaccination saga is one step closer to a resolution after reports on Thursday claimed Titans star Bryce Cartwright is considering backflipping on his flu jab protest.
The Courier-Mail first reported on Wednesday night Titans flyer Brian Kelly has agreed to receive the influenza shot, leaving Cartwright as the sole Queensland-based player standing against the NRL's biosecurity measures.
The NRL has requested all its players receive the flu jab as part of the biosecurity measures demanded by the Queensland government for the league to return on May 28.
Facing the prospect of the entire league being stood down, the NRL has made it clear that players who have yet to receive the common flu shot without a legitimate medical reason will be stood down.
Despite being banned from training with Titans teammates, Cartwright and Kelly continued to stand against the push from the NRL and Queensland government.
However, that changed on Wednesday after the Titans handed the pair an ultimatum to either receive the shot - or to be stood down without pay.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports the ultimatum had the impact the NRL was hoping for with Kelly immediately agreeing to have the shot, while Cartwright is now considering backflipping on his protest.
The report claims Cartwright is considering abandoning his beliefs after being faced with the prospect of surrendering $450,000 remaining on his contract, which expires at the end of the 2021 season.
Already sacrificing half his reported wages for the remainder of the 2020 season as part of an agreement between the Australian Rugby League Commission and the NRL Players' Association, Cartwright stands to earn a further $725,000 until the completion of his deal.
If he refuses to submit to the influenza immunisation, his contract could be torn up with a reported pay-out of $275,000 - a potential loss of $450,000.
Cartwright must inform the Titans on Thursday if he will receive the jab or not.
According to Channel 9 reporter Dominique Loudon on the Gold Coast, both Kelly and Cartwright did not attend a team training session on Thursday.
"No Brian Kelly or Bryce Cartwright at @GCTitans training," she posted on Twitter.
"The club expects Kelly to have his flu jab today (unless a last minute backflip) & Cartwright to decline the request. Their waiting to see Cartwright's official stance. He risks being stood down without pay."
On Tuesday evening, the Gold Coast Titans revealed the club 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."
Canberra's Josh Papalii, Joe Tapine and Sia Soliola, Manly's Dylan Walker and Addin Fonua-Blake and Canterbury's Sione Katoa are also reported to be faced with the same ultimatum the Titans have issued to Cartwright.
Gold Coast captain Ryan James says the flu shot scandal has not divided the Titans playing group.
The injured star has contacted Cartwright and Kelly but did not try to influence their decision ahead of Thursday's deadline.
"It would be brave of them (to stick to their position)," James said.
"Not too many people are willing to fight for what they believe in."
James' comments came as the NSW's shadow health minister Ryan Park urged the state government to adopt the same policy as Queensland.
"I don't think it is too much to ask for professional footballers, many of them highly paid, to be vaccinated against the flu," Park told AAP. "If players want to make a stance, that is up to them. But they can't have it both ways. We are in the middle of a pandemic.
"The reality is if one of them was to come down with the flu they are more likely susceptible to COVID-19.
"I don't think in this environment that (a jab) is too much for a government to ask."
- with AAP