NRL wants jabs in arms before players leave Queensland

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NRL players could be vaccinated in Queensland at the end of the season before returning to COVID-ravaged southern states with Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys confident of a near unanimous take-up.

The NRL will escalate its education campaign for almost 500 players with information packs designed to allay concerns over COVID-19 vaccines. They will be sent to players this week.

It will involve four simple questions and answers about the immunisation, which is critical to Australian communities being opened up again as Sydney endures a third month in lockdown.

The NRL has met with Lieutenant General John Frewen, who is in charge of the national vaccine rollout, about the timeline when players would have access to the Pfizer vaccine, for which the two doses are spaced three weeks apart.

Penrith chief executive Brian Fletcher has offered a mass vaccination day for Sydney-based NRL players at the end of the season in the car park of Panthers’ leagues club. The facility will open on Monday and is expected to put 2000 jabs into arms daily.

But V’landys hasn’t given up on starting to vaccinate the majority of the playing group before they leave Queensland.

The NRL is confident almost all of its players will voluntarily get the COVID-19 vaccine.Credit:Getty

“We might even be in a position to do that before they come back to NSW,” he said. “If the vaccine is available, that’s what we’ll do, but we’re looking at all our options and we’re trying to do our bit. We’ve started the community campaign and we’re aware western Sydney needs Pfizer more than anyone.

“We haven’t asked for any favourable treatment, we’re sitting in the queue and waiting our turn. But you don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring. COVID doesn’t work with you, you’ve got to work with COVID.”

But Fletcher is already planning for the future, offering Penrith’s facility for a window to allow players to travel to Sydney’s outer west in droves. It would put the NRL’s mind at ease as it embarks on one of the most important logistical exercises in recent history to have its players jabbed before pre-season training begins later this year.

“The NRL could package it up as they come home and with help from the health department, we could take a two-hour block and get them all done,” Fletcher said.

We’re confident the majority of players will have it, but we’ll always abide by the government’s protocols

The NRL won’t make vaccination mandatory for its players, but given governments are considering vaccine passports to cross domestic and international borders, V’landys is confident the code’s stars will roll up their sleeves en masse.

The majority of players have stated they will wait until the end of the season to have the vaccine given Queensland is a low-risk area of local transmission.

“Our view is 97 to 98 per cent are going to do it voluntarily,” he said. “We’re confident the majority of players will have it, but we’ll always abide by the government’s protocols. This is going to be about encouragement, rather than a big stick which divides people.

“Once we sent the information to players they’ll understand they’re more risk of being hit by a car going to get the vaccine than something actually happening from receiving the vaccine.”

Some of the NRL’s biggest names including Nathan Cleary, Ben Hunt, Wade Graham, Damien Cook and Christian Welch have lent their support to the vaccine rollout, fronting the NRL campaign outlining their motivation for receiving the jab.

The Let’s Tackle This Together campaign was launched on Friday and will be heard across a variety of media platforms.

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