Unfazed by criticism, Gold Coast star Bryce Cartwright says he will not be bullied into getting a flu shot after Prime Minister Scott Morrison called for the NRL to adopt a “no jab, no play” approach.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys is set to enter talks with the RLPA in the hope of encouraging players to vaccinate after Cartwright polarised the rugby league community with his stance.
Cartwright has refused a flu shot which is part of the NRL’s strict biosecurity protocols in order to restart the competition next month following the coronavirus shutdown.
It prompted even Morrison to weigh in, saying the NRL should enforce a “no jab, no play” policy that would ensure players who rejected vaccination are suspended from competing.
But Cartwright has dug his heels in, saying it would be “coercion” if he was forced to get a jab against his wishes and claimed he was not the only player in the NRL to refuse vaccination.
Canberra players Josh Papalii, Sia Soliola and Joseph Tapine were reportedly not permitted to train on Wednesday after taking out wording on the NRL’s vaccination waiver and refusing to take the shot on religious grounds.
It is understood the Raiders trio put a line through a sentence which stated players must accept they are at greater risk of contracting influenza if they did not receive the injection.
Cartwright believed his decision to refuse a jab had been leaked to the media, sparking the “anti-vaxxer” backlash.
“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(ting) 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.”
Cartwright’s wife Shanelle has been outspoken about their family’s decision to deny their children vaccines, posting on social media on Wednesday: “The proof is in the pudding, our kids are a picture of health”.
But Cartwright said he was not an anti-vaxxer. “I stand for the freedom to choose who goes into our bodies … so to label me an ‘anti-vaxxer’ is spreading misinformation,” he said.
But Cartwright added: “I know people in my industry with vaccine-injured children and the herd NEVER stuck around for them. These are our bodies and we decide what goes in them.”
Cartwright has signed a vaccination waiver in order to train with the Titans but must explain his actions to NRL chief medical officer Paul Bloomfield.
An NRL spokesperson said players who refused to receive the shot would be dealt with on a case-by-case basis amid consultation with club and NRL medical staff.
While reports claimed Cartwright faced a ban, the NRL spokesperson refused to speculate on possible penalties. But V’landys plans to talk with the RLPA players’ union and stress the importance of players getting a shot this week.