Gold Coast Titans NRL player Bryce Cartwright has been cleared to return to training despite not having a flu shot, after being granted a medical exemption.
- Cartwright was initially stood down after refusing the flu vaccine
- The Prime Minister has weighed into the issue, saying unvaccinated players should not be allowed in the NRL competition
- The NRL said players could be exempted from flu shot requirements on religious, medical or conscientious grounds
Queensland’s Chief Medical Officer Jeannette Young reviewed documentation Cartwright had provided to club doctors and he was allowed to return to the playing squad to prepare for the season restart.
Brian Kelly has also been told he can return to Gold Coast training after receiving the flu shot on Thursday.
Players agreeing to have the flu jab is part of the NRL’s strict biosecurity protocols that were put in place to allow the competition to recommence on May 28.
But Cartwright had said on social media that he would not be forced into having the vaccine.
“I won’t be bullied into making decisions that could impact my health and the health of my family,” he posted on social media.
“Giving us the ultimatum of ‘get the shot or be stood down’ is coercion and leaking private medical information is illegal.
“As for me being the first and apparently only one declining the shot is bullshit and far from the truth.”
He added that he was not an anti-vaxxer.
“I stand for the freedom to choose what goes into our bodies … so to label me an ‘anti-vaxxer’ is spreading misinformation,” he said.
‘No jab, no play’
Canberra Raiders forwards Sia Soliola, Joe Tapine and Josh Papalii have also come out against the moves to have players vaccinated.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for players who had refused the flu shot to be banned from the NRL after Cartwright polarised the rugby league community with his stance.
Mr Morrison was adamant players should abide by a “no jab, no play” policy.
An NRL spokesperson said players who didn’t want the shot would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis in consultation with club and NRL medical staff.
The NRL said its players were required to be vaccinated for flu, but could be exempted in exceptional circumstances such as on religious, medical or conscientious grounds.
Players who have a conscientious objection to flu vaccination will have to sign a revised waiver permitting them to train and play in the 2020 season.
According to the NRL, 97 per cent of players and staff have already been vaccinated, including all of the Titan’s other players, staff and officials.
Cartwright, Kelly and Nathan Peats were stood down initially after their refusal to have the flu shot.
Peats explained his objection was due to a bad reaction he had to the vaccination in 2012 when he was playing for South Sydney.
“I had the option to say yes or no and I chose no for that reason,” Peats tweeted.
“If I knew it would blow up I would have said yes straight away.”
The AFL will not have a league-wide policy to force its players to have a flu vaccination ahead of the season resumption, and will leave the decision to the discretion of players and club staff.