Melbourne winger Josh Addo-Carr and South Sydney fullback Latrell Mitchell have issued apologies for breaking social distancing rules on the weekend.
Photos of Mitchell, Addo-Carr and Knights squad member Tyronne Roberts-Davis were posted on the Storm winger's Instagram account on the weekend, showing them breaking the government's social distancing rules by being closer than 1.5 metres apart and gathering in a large group.
NSW Police has issued $1000 COVID-19-related personal infringement notices to the trio after officers from the Manning-Great Lakes Police District investigated the alleged breaches of the Public Health Act 2010 (NSW).
Police were told a group of more than 10 men were at a gathering on a rural property near Taree on Saturday, in contravention of current ministerial directions.
NSW Police is also continuing to investigae potential breaches of the Firearms Act (1996) at the Taree property. Mitchell was seen in one of the videos posted on his social media account using a gun.
The NRL described the actions of the trio as "disappointing and an unacceptable breach of health orders".
Each of the three players is facing the possibility of further sanctions from the NRL once the governing body has completed its investigations into the incident.
Addo-Carr and Mitchell took to Instagram on Monday afternoon to explain their actions and apologise for any hurt caused but the Melbourne winger then deleted his video, which had the caption "Sorry guys have a blessed and safe day. All love", and all but two of his previous posts.
Why Addo-Carr reached out to Latrell
In the video which Addo-Carr later deleted, he said: "Firstly I'd like to apologise for my actions this weekend. Nothing was intentional or deliberate. A couple of family members of mine are going through a tough time at the moment.
"I got in contact with Latrell to go out to his private property to connect with our culture again and try and put a smile on their faces and have a bit of fun as well.
"I can't wait to go out there and finally play some footy. Like I said before I'm really sorry from the bottom of my heart. Thanks guys."
Mitchell added: "Firstly I just want to apologise for my actions this weekend. I've been up here with my family for the past five weeks practicing that social distancing stuff.
"There's a little bit of a slip-up. Foxy [Addo-Carr] reached out, has his cousins who are going through some stuff in Sydney so he wanted to get away to the bush and make sure they're getting culturally connected again.
"That was the whole part of the concept of this weekend. I wasn't here to break any rules or hurt anyone. We're not being selfish, I couldn't turn down the brothers in their time of need. On behalf of Foxy and all my mob we do apologise."
The NRL issued a statement on Monday morning in response to the photos of the two representative stars and Roberts-Davis, who has made seven first-grade appearances for Gold Coast before moving to Newcastle this season.
"Our players are role models and we expect them to lead by example during this pandemic," the statement read.
"On face value, the image in today's media is both disappointing and an unacceptable breach of health orders.
"The NRL will be speaking to the players involved to seek further information and we will ensure the players provide any assistance authorities require.
"We are embarking on a significant education program to ensure our players understand what is acceptable behaviour ahead of the resumption of training.
"When training resumes our players and officials must comply with biosecurity protocols that go further than current government restrictions.
"As a group, our players have taken government health orders very seriously and have helped educate the community. On face value, today’s matter is unacceptable and we support the government in any action they believe necessary."
As reported by The Daily Telegraph on Monday morning, ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys was shown the photos of Addo-Carr and Mitchell on a camping trip on the NSW North Coast.
Government rules state people are only allowed to leave their homes for essential trips such as shopping, work, education, medical visits or personal exercise with one other person.
The post depicting the players and other men around a campfire was removed from Addo-Carr's account on Monday.
The Storm supported the NRL's stance on the matter, releasing a club statement: "Our expectation is that players and staff will act as role models and support community measures taken to eradicate COVID-19 (coronavirus).
"Storm supports the steps being finalised by the NRL in order to resume the 2020 competition. Players will be fully briefed on these protocols once they return to the club ahead of the recommencement of the NRL season.
"Any potential penalty regarding the weekend matter resides with the relevant authorities."
South Sydney posted a statement on their website on Monday to say: "Our club and players have taken the government health orders very seriously, and on a number of occasions have helped educate and support the community through this period.
"We will ensure Latrell provides any assistance authorities require and accept any action the government believes necessary."
Latrell explains social distancing slip-up
All 16 clubs were sent an in-depth document by the NRL over the weekend detailing the extensive measures which will be required by players and staff in the lead-up to the NRL's proposed restart of the Telstra Premiership on May 28 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The RLPA issued a statement on Monday to announce it was aware of the incident and have contacted the players "to better understand the circumstances".
"The NRL and RLPA agreed on protocols to apply during the suspension of the competition to protect the health and safety of our players, clubs and officials.
"Players are expected to adhere to the protocols, as well as the government’s community restrictions during this time.
"The RLPA takes these matters seriously and will continue to work with players, clubs and the NRL regarding this situation."
Roberts-Davis is not in the campfire photo but is seen in another picture with Addo-Carr and another man, tagged in the post as William Lockwood, on dirtbikes.
The Knights are aware of Roberts-Davis's involvement but are yet to make an official comment.