Rugby puts Reds at risk with flu jab stance
RUGBY Australia will not force players to take a flu shot as they prepare to return to playing in July, and hope the Queensland government changes its "no jab, no play" stance that forced NRL club Gold Coast Titans to stand down two stars.
While NSW, ACT and Victoria will not force athletes to take the vaccination amid the COVID-19 crisis - some refuse for religious and ethical reasons while others have had previous adverse reactions to the shot - Queensland is sticking firm that players who are not vaccinated cannot play.
Bryce Cartwright and Brian Kelly have been stood down by the Titans for refusing, but RA has submitted its return to play policy to the Queensland government and is hoping the state's chief medical officer, Dr Jeannette Young, will soften her stance.
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Some of the Queensland Reds players are said to be opposed to taking the vaccine. RA's return to play committee lead, Anthony French, believes he will have an answer by Tuesday.
"Our return to play manual is currently with the Queensland government's chief health officer," French said. "Our paperwork was submitted last week to the government, we're awaiting further feedback or approval, we've been given the green light in three of the other states; ACT, NSW and Victoria.
"We expect if not [Monday] afternoon then perhaps [Tuesday] to have some feedback or approval from the Queensland government."
Should the Queensland government change its policy, Cartwright and Kelly would likely have legal grounds to be reinstated by the Titans.
RA's chief medical officer, Dr Warren McDonald, said: "We've always recommended the flu shot every year, we haven't mandated it in this situation but the majority of our players will take it, or have had it already, and the vast majority of our staff.
"We're dealing with the Queensland government on an individual basis."
Dr McDonald did stress, however, that players had to take a "24-7" responsibility to social distancing and hygiene.
"It's not adequate for players to just turn up and do it at training and forget about it for the rest of their day," he said.
All players will take temperature tests before training, and McDonald is urging them to refrain from non-essential gatherings with families and friends, and going to restaurants, cafes and church if possible.
This is to ensure no player contracts the coronavirus before Australia's revised Super Rugby tournament kicks off by a proposed date of July 4, with either five or six teams.
The Western Force is sure to be one, while RA is also exploring the possibility of including Japan's Sunwolves, who would be relocated to NSW or Queensland for the duration of the 12-week tournament, with final details to be confirmed by the end of May.
"At the moment the Western Force are very much in our plans to be involved," RA's high performance manager Ben Whitaker said.
The Rugby Championship international picture remains unclear, although the August Bledisloe Cup series against the All Blacks will almost certainly be rescheduled for October.
"The international travel restrictions in South Africa and Argentina have been strengthened in the last couple of weeks, and both of those nations won't have restrictions lifted until at least September," Whitaker said.