Show of arms from NRL on jabs but job security is in players’ hands

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“Very good question,” NRL CEO Andrew Abdo replied to me yesterday, when I asked him point-blank: “So what will the NRL do when, inevitably, some players simply refuse to get vaccinated before next season starts?”

But we’ll get to his reply in a bit.

Right now, the NRL is embarking on a serious program to get as many of its players as possible jabbed once their seasons are over. It is doing so because the NRL gets what not all the players have yet grasped – if they don’t get jabbed, they simply will not be able to ply their trade as players from next year on.

A sign of the resistance the NRL will face came last weekend when Broncos star forward Payne Haas briefly put up an Instagram post endorsing a meme which carried the message: “Paedophiles in NSW aren’t required to carry a card or ‘passport’ that identifies them or segregates them – because it violates their privacy. Let that sink in. #novaccinepassports”.

“Think about it,” Haas wrote.

OK Payne, I’ve thought about it for at least the two seconds required, and I’ve got it. I call bullshit.

Who are paedophiles a danger to? Children. If you want to work with children in this country, be it in childcare or teaching in primary or secondary schools, you have no right at all to any privacy provisions. You are subject to serious police checks. And comparing privacy provisions for criminal offenders to whether or not you have been vaccinated is such obvious twaddle in any case, only complete nutters like Craig Kelly and Clive Palmer – don’t get me started – push it. As a rugby league forward you are expected to be, and no doubt are, three times smarter than them. So let’s go with: “No, Payne, YOU think about it”.

Payne Haas gave his thoughts on the vaccine passport on an Instagram post.Credit:NRL Photos

Of course you do have a right to privacy on 99.99 per cent of your medical history. But the right to keep private something so simple as to whether or not you have been jabbed is completely trumped by the right people have to be in a safe workplace – and in this case, the duty the NRL has to provide it. This last season, that included putting you players in a sealed bubble much of the time, as the jab was not available. But by the start of next season, that will of course include requiring everyone to be double jabbed. What alternative does the NRL have?

If they let you go in unjabbed, it means the NRL will not have taken all reasonable precautions to reduce the risk you represent to other players, and their families, and their communities. (It would be rather like letting someone who hasn’t gone through a police check, work with young people, if you will.)

Could this be any clearer? If you have not had the jab, you are recklessly endangering all the above.

And under those circumstances, you think no one should have the right to know whether you’ve had the jab, and the NRL no right to institute a vaccine passport allowing access only to the jabbed? Seriously?

Andrew Abdo has set an ambitious vaccination goal for the NRL.Credit:Edwina Pickles

And yes, in certain circles, endless nonsense circulates about the danger of the jab, and I suppose we could go through all the nonsense and scientifically rebut each bit of tripe.

But let’s not. No one can do it better than the highly regarded literary website McSweeney’s, in San Francisco, which in an article this week used deliberately very salty language to get the message through to anti-vaxxers.

“Hi,” it began, “if you are reading this essay then congratulations, you are still alive. And if you are alive, then you have either gotten the COVID-19 vaccine, or you still have the opportunity to get the vaccine against COVID-19. And holy f—, if you aren’t f—ing vaccinated against COVID-19, then you need to get f—ing vaccinated right now. I mean, what the f–? F— you. Get vaccinated. F—.”

Do we have to stop?

Nah, here is another burst.

“The vaccine also doesn’t have a f—ing 5G chip in it. What the f— do you think a f—ing 5G chip is, f—nuts? You think it’s like some invisible nanotechnology they can suspend in a liquid and then just put in your f–ing blood and then it what, exactly? F—ing floats around in your body going on Instagram and telling the government you went to the grocery store? No one f—ing cares where you go, you absolute f—ing f—barf. F— off with that. F—.”

Outstanding! It is language appropriate to the derision such nonsense deserves.

Which brings us back to Andrew Abdo and the dilemma faced by the NRL. What will the NRL do when, inevitably, some players say: “Nup, we don’t care about all your fancy logic, all your reasoning, we are not getting vaxxed.”

In reply, Abdo takes a long run-up.

“Right now,” he says, “the focus is on education and facilitation. We want the players to understand the need, and help them get it. At the NRL itself, 75 per cent of our staff have already received the first dose or are fully vaccinated and we want to be the first sports organisation in the country to be at 100 per cent. As to the players, we are making the point that it is safe, and that part of their job, as leaders in their communities, is to get it. We have run an internal program with our clubs and the take-up has been good across both males and female players. As an example, the Eels and the Roosters NRLW players are already up to 85 per cent vaccinated.”

How many do you think, in the end, will be die-hard refusals?

“Last year should be a guide, when we had the flu shot protocols, where everyone was asked to get the flu shot to limit the likelihood of getting COVID. In the end, we only had a small handful who refused to get it. Right now, the job is to get the numbers who are jabbed into the percentages of the high 90s, and then we will get to your question.”

Surely though it must be, “no jab, no play”?

“It is a matter for our board,” he said. “We haven’t yet formulated the final policy for the 2022 season. But the decision might well be taken out of our hands. If the stadiums and the airlines say ‘no jab, no access’, then obviously the players won’t be able to take the field.”

You get the drift. That will be the policy of the stadiums and the airlines, which means, ultimately, those handful of players who do resist to the bitter end, will finish with precisely that. No jab, no chance at ever having your contract renewed.

Twitter: @Peter_Fitz

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