NRL chief Abdo stands by vaccine stance

·3-min read

Melbourne CEO Justin Rodski says the Storm could have avoided a pre-season stand-off with Nelson Asofa-Solomona had the NRL mandated the COVID-19 vaccine.

The sole Storm player resisting vaccination, Asofa-Solomona can't return to training on December 7 with his teammates unless he gets his first jab this week.

The NRL's complicated vaccination situation was highlighted on Tuesday with Canberra CEO Don Furner stating players would not be stood down if they were not jabbed.

Instead, they will have to follow stringent NRL protocols around training and miss games played in both Queensland and Victoria.

But the same flexibility cannot be afforded to the Storm and three Queensland teams, with several players believed not to have had the jab in the northern state.

While unvaccinated players can run out in NSW and ACT, Victorian health orders mean professional athletes must be vaccinated in order to attend training or games.

The Queensland Government also announced on Tuesday only vaccinated people would be able to enter major stadiums from December 17.

"From a code perspective if the NRL had mandated vaccinations the pathway through this would be much clearer," Rodski said.

"Now each individual club is required to work through it and each club has a very different set of circumstances it needs to consider."

Rodski's comments came as the players' union and select club bosses revealed a plan that would give players eight weeks' notice before they could be sacked for not being vaccinated.

Players could also be docked pay while unavailable for training or games.

Roski said Melbourne were continuing discussions with Asofa-Solomona, who last week posted an anti-vaccination video on social media.

With three weeks required between jabs he needs to have his first by the end of this week.

"We're really hopeful he does and he can return to training on December 7 and begin his preparations," Rodski said.

"He has this week to make that decision and then it starts to impact his pre-season and his training.

"In saying that there's still pathways for him to return to training and playing next year.

"And we're working through what that framework looks like and the contractual considerations are but it's obviously a really complicated issue."

It came as Abdo defended the NRL's position, claiming mandatory vaccines were not the "silver bullet".

The game's vaccine position will be challenged as soon as the opening round, with three games scheduled in Queensland.

"I don't think there's anything soft about our policy," Abdo said.

"What we are doing is we're giving people the freedom of choice, no different to many global sports around the world.

"No different to any federal or state government in Australia. No different to many employers.

"We want people to have the freedom of choice which I think is important.

"But we are putting health at the forefront of our policy which is why we believe in vaccination, we want everyone to get vaccinated."

Abdo did however indicate he would support whichever stance clubs took, with salary cap relief likely if players are let go.

"It's important that we adhere to the principle that clubs are autonomous and they run a business," Abdo said.

"They have a board and they need to think about what the policy is based on their (state's) jurisdiction, based on the club environment and broader policy."

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