NRL anti-vaxxer refuses flu shot request
Gold Coast back-rower Bryce Cartwright is the first NRL player to reject a code-wide request to be vaccinated against the flu as part of strict new measures to restart the competition amid the COVID-19 crisis.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal Cartwright has told Titans officials he will refuse the flu vaccination request, despite the NRL suggesting it was "compulsory".
He must now explain his stance to League Central before taking the field again this year.
Already, the back-rower is regarded as the code's highest profile anti-vaxxer, with wife Shanelle opening up last year on Instagram about the decision not to immunise their two children.
An NRL official said Monday that, as part of the Project Apollo Player Protocols, all athletes were expected to get the compulsory flu shot.
The official added however that those who opted against the vaccination would then need to speak with NRL chief medical officer Dr Paul Bloomfield, who would deal with each player "on a case-by-case basis".
It is understood anyone who objects to be vaccinated because of medical or personal reasons will need to sign a waiver before being allowed to take part in any resurrected competition.
The policy has been put in place by the NRL given, if a player contracts COVID-19 while already suffering from influenza, the situation becomes far more serious than if they had just contracted the virus alone.
Only last year the Cartwrights created headlines after revealing they would not be immunising either of their two young children.
Shanelle explained both she and her husband had based their strong stance on widespread research, including a range of books by Dr Suzanne Humphries.
"I remember he (Bryce) was so defensive when I first brought it up and got angry at me for even suggesting that we shouldn't vaccinate," Shanelle said.
"And then he read a package insert and a few pages of one of Dr Suzanne Humphries books and saw vaccines under a different light.
"And now we're here."
Around the same time, Taylor Winterstein - the wife of then Manly Sea Eagles forward Frank Winterstein - also came under the media spotlight after charging $200 to attend her series of anti-vaxxer workshops.
Her husband no longer plays in the NRL, however.
Despite Cartwright's opposition to the vaccination, there is no suggestion the 25-year-old will have to stand down from the season, but instead sign a waiver to ensure his place in the Titans squad once the competition resumes.
Privately, the NRL expects little opposition to its flu shot request. The organisation is also encouraging players to download the COVIDSafe app.
On Monday, all 16 NRL squads returned to work for the first time since the premiership was suspended to complete the Project Apollo Player Protocol workshop.
The aim of the education day was to ensure both players and staff understood the strict biosecurity protocols designed to keep them safe prior to the competition resuming on May 28.
Tuesday will also be used for additional education opportunities, plus team meetings, before active training resumes on Wednesday.
ARLC commission chairman Peter V'landys welcomed the return, while also warning all players of exactly what was at stake.
"It's a great day for rugby league," V'landys said. "Our protocols are substantially stricter than the current government measures and we wanted to ensure the first day was devoted to educating our players.
"They know the future of the game rests with them complying with our protocols."