Dragons players Zac Lomax and Daniel Alvaro may be sidelined for up to a month while the Queensland government has foreshadowed police monitoring of team quarantine facilities when 12 NRL clubs arrive in the Sunshine State.
Lomax and Alvaro remain outside St George Illawarra’s COVID-19 bubble as 10 of their teammates returned to training on Monday, having signed sworn statements regarding the events of the recent illegal gathering at Paul Vaughan’s house at Shellharbour.
Unless they sign a declaration that only Dragons players were present at the party, Lomax and Alvaro must remain in a COVID-19 hold and won’t travel with St George Illawarra’s 41-member bubble to Queensland on Wednesday.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo confirmed on Monday that any player not originally part of a team’s Apollo register would have to serve a 14-day quarantine period separate to their club’s set-up.
With Lomax and Alvaro under isolation until Sunday – backdated two weeks from June 27, they could then face another two weeks before being available for selection again.
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Lomax’s brother Hayden is also a squad member and will also be excluded from travelling as they live together in Wollongong.
The Dragons are also deciding how to spread out 12 one-game player suspensions from the breaching of NSW stay-at-home orders, with the club taking 27 players and 12 staff members north at this stage.
“Ten have completed that part of the bubble they’ll travel up on Wednesday,” Abdo said.
“Those that haven’t won’t. Once you’re off the COVID hold, then they’re obviously free to play, but we now have a situation where their team is located in another state, with borders closed.
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“There will be have to be separate arrangements made for any players – not just them – to re-enter the bubble, [they] will have to be worked through a quarantine system which will be separate to those that have already begun that process.”
Warriors prop Jamayne Taunoa-Brown joined the Dragons on Monday on a short-term, three-game deal to provide reinforcements for Anthony Griffin’s side.
The NRL is confident Origin players – including Tariq Sims and Manly’s Daly Cherry-Evans and Tom Trbojevic – will be able to transition between NSW and Queensland bubbles into club quarantine facilities in time for Friday’s round-18 opening clashes.
As the NRL begins the mammoth logistical task of shifting almost 500 players and staff, plus immediate family members north that could swell bubble numbers to “800 people” according to Abdo, both he and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk stressed a strict enforcement of the NRL’s Apollo protocols to ensure community safety.
The NRL has secured hotels in Brisbane, the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast for exclusive use where clubs and players’ families will be housed, with Ms Palaszczuk confirming police will also monitor the initial 14-day quarantine period.
“It is very hard on families with the NRL players,” she said.
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“They will be in their distinct hubs, so we are facilitating that the immediate family members can move with them and they will be in those tight hubs.
“It is up to the NRL to police [the Apollo rules]. But we will be monitoring that very closely as well.
“I’m quite sure the police will be having a look at it. We know where the three hotels are, we’ll keep a close eye on them, as will the NRL.”
Breaches of NRL COVID-19 protocols – by Dragons and Bulldogs players, as well as Sharks veteran Josh Dugan and Queensland star Jai Arrow – in recent weeks had put the NRL’s travel exemptions at risk and strained government negotiations.
Everyone understands what’s at stake now.
Each club will once again had a biosecurity liaison officer or “COVID cop” assigned by the NRL to monitor quarantine proceedings, with Abdo confident “everyone understands what’s at stake now”.
“If someone steps out of line and breaches this in quarantine there’ll be significant implications, not just for them from a disciplinary perspective, but for the quarantine process, and essentially, the system, we’re putting in place,” he said.
“I think everyone gets it. We’re going to be putting in extra measures in place to make it even easier for us to keep those inside these exclusive facilities safe and secure.”