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Two Titans stood down after refusing flu vaccinations

Two Titans players were stood down on Friday over their refusal to get influenza vaccinations after the Queensland government voiced its concerns to the NRL.

Bryce Cartwright, Nathan Peats and Brian Kelly were stood down following the intervention of the Queensland government on Friday, whose approval of an NRL return in the Sunshine State was granted on the condition that all players would be vaccinated.

Peats was later reinstated after agreeing to have his flu vaccination.

The Titans issued a statement on Friday evening to confirm Cartwright and Kelly would be stood down from all official duties.

"The club is following the directives of the Queensland Government and National Rugby League in that players who do not comply with the required vaccination protocols will be unable to participate in training or play."

ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys told NRL.com on Friday afternoon that the NSW government had issued no such ultimatum on the basis of a high take-up of vaccinations across the game.

"My advice has been that NSW government has been fine to accept the exemptions because we've got such a high rate (of vaccinations) at 97 per cent," V'landys said.

A small group of players from clubs other than the Gold Coast, including Canberra trio Josh Papalii, Joseph Tapine and Sia Soliola, Canterbury hooker Sione Katoa and Manly’s Addin Fonua-Blake, Martin Taupau and Dylan Walker, have also protested the suggestion of mandatory vaccinations and would fall under NSW or ACT state jurisdiction.

The standing down of the players came after the intervention of Queensland's Chief Medical Officer Jeannette Young.

Peats took to social media shortly after news broke to clarify that he would be getting a vaccination, and had only objected to the flu shot after having a bad reaction previously.

Titans hooker Nathan Peats.
Titans hooker Nathan Peats. ©NRL Photos

He wrote that after seeing his name mentioned as one of the trio that had been "stood down for no flu jab", he clarified that it had nothing to do with "other players and being anti vaccination".

"Myself, wife and both my sons are vaccinated. I had a bad experience in 2012 when I was at Souths when I had the flu shot, that’s my only reason behind it.

"I’ve spoken to the club and will get the jab this afternoon. I had the option to say yes or no and I chose no for that reason. If I knew it would blow up I would have said yes straight away."

"I've had a discussion with [the NRL] this morning and they've stood down those three players at the moment until we work out what it means," Dr Young said on Friday afternoon.

"In actual fact they've done a very good job. All their other players, staff and officials are all vaccinated.

"That is an amazing outcome so I'm sure we're going to be able to sort it all out. That's all being fixed.

"They'll be coming back to me about those three individual players. But remember that's three players out of three teams so we'll work that one through."

Earlier in the day Gold Coast coach Justin Holbrook told reporters that Cartwright had signed an amended NRL waiver after refusing a flu shot and that the club would ensure all its squad and staff were compliant with current NRL rules.

Joseph Tapine, Sia Soliola and Josh Papalii.
Joseph Tapine, Sia Soliola and Josh Papalii.

Whether non-vaccinated players would be permitted to travel to Queensland and play in the state is another issue the NRL plans to work through before the planned May 28 restart date.

Brisbane and North Queensland told the NRL their 50-strong contingents of players and staff registered to return to club facilities this week have all had the required vaccinations.

Speaking prior to the stand-downs ordered against three of his players, Holbrook said the Titans would continue to abide by any directions from NRL HQ and government authorities.

Holbrook defends Cartwright's vaccination stance

"What we've got to do as a club, and I mean this, is follow the procedures and regulations by the government," Holbrook said.

"And if one of them is [to] get the flu shot or sign a waiver, as long as we're compliant I think that's OK.

"We want to abide by the regulations. There's been a few changes in that area which makes it hard. But in terms of the game and government policies, as a club as long as we've done one of those two things I'm happy.

"We don't want to be outside of what's asked. The circumstances we're in now, in the world and in particular as our game, we're trying to get it back up and running.

"And we've seen lots of variations in terms of protocols and training systems ... I think we've got to be adaptable and whatever procedure changes are for a reason. Whether it's government or NRL, whatever the reason is, it's for a reason.

"I'm OK if it gets changed in any area, be it through vaccinations or when we can go to contact training or not, it's the experts making the right decisions and we've just got to be compliant with it."