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Bubble-bursters may face harsher penalties with NRL's future in jeopardy

ARL chairman Peter V'landys has warned of harsher penalties for NRL players and club staff who put the game's immediate future in jeopardy through breaches of COVID-19 protocol.

V'landys expressed his disappointment at a string of breaches over the past week and reminded both the game's players and coaching staff their future salaries would be determined by their actions.  

Broncos forward Tevita Pangai jnr was stood down for a 14-day period after breaching COVID-19 protocols over the weekend when he visited a barbershop opening in Brisbane.

Inexperienced Knights pair Starford To'a and Simi Sasagi were also self-reported to the NRL by the club after attending a local rugby league match on Saturday.

The NRL is yet to announce sanctions for the trio.

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They join Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett, Dragons prop Paul Vaughan and three Brisbane off-field staff, including club legend Allan Langer, in COVID holds on the sidelines in a difficult week for the code.

"It's extremely disappointing because they're putting at risk not only their own income but the income of a lot of people in the game," V'landys said on Monday.

"I can't stress the importance that the game sees this year out financially and viably. If we play through the year we'll be in a very good financial position next year.

"Majority of the players are doing the right thing. They're conscientious, they're professional. You have one percent that aren't and that one percent can bring the whole game down.

They're putting at risk not only their own income but the income of a lot of people in the game.

Peter V'landys

"That's the unfortunate thing about it because it's all about credibility from the government.

"The government supports us because we've introduced these protocols. We have the highest biosecurity measures in place and other sports followed our lead.

"In Queensland, we have a special exemption that could be withdrawn any day if people continue to do the wrong thing. If people breach them it destroys our credibility with the government."

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk described the recent actions within the NRL as "frustrating" and wanted the code to act swiftly when breaches occur.

The Broncos, Cowboys, Titans, and Storm are supposed to be in strict lockdown between crossing the NSW border and playing against Sydney teams as part of the agreement.

Their personal exemptions for travel include training, an appointment, or for an emergency matter.

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"Queenslanders are doing the right thing and this puts at risk all the great work that Queenslanders have done," Ms Palaszczuk said.

"Every code that is here in Queensland has signed up to an industry plan and the players must do the right thing.

"I'm satisfied that [NRL] management is dealing with this very, very seriously [but] I'm not satisfied that the players understand the seriousness.

"There have been a number of breaches that potentially does put the season at risk."

Papenhuyzen wants action over fan threats

Meanwhile, NRL head of football Graham Annesley admits to being concerned following comments made by Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen that he'd been a victim of death threats from online trolls over their betting outcomes.

The 22-year-old responded to a tweet by AFL player Mitch Robinson, who hit out at trolls who attacked him for not helping them win through his own performances.

Papenhuyzen said he's received similar feedback from cowards online.

"Lots of the boys after a game do get a fair bit of stick from fans and punters," Papenhuyzen said in a media conference on Monday.

"We don't go out there to lose people's bets, we don't go out there to make our Supercoach score as low as possible, we go out there to get a win.

"I thought what Mitch tweeted was true and hopefully more is done around that because the toll it has on players is pretty massive.

"It probably gets swept under the carpet because we probably don't have a place to comment on it or it makes you a target if you do go at it.

"I think it's for the people higher up to figure out and crack down on that a bit harder because we as players if we say something it usually comes to bite us on the bum."

Sharks winger Ronaldo Mulitalo took to Twitter to say it was common for players to be attacked online by anonymous accounts.

Annesley said matters like this were "a massive concern" that should be pointed out to the NRL Integrity Unit and added Papenhuyzen had every right to make a complaint.

"Regardless of whether you’re a rugby league player or not - if you’re getting bullied or harassed or threatened on social media, that’s unacceptable in our community.

"From the NRL’s perspective, we don’t accept that for anyone involved in our game.

"And the one thing I would say to any of our players and any of our officials - if they believe they have received something that is threatening in any way by social media or any way, for that matter, whether it be a verbal threat, a written threat, or a social media threat - we’re very happy for them to bring that to our attention and to use our Integrity Unit to talk to authorities.

"People have been tracked down. I would certainly say to anyone who indulges in these sorts of threats - you shouldn’t feel as though you’re doing it anonymously because the authorities do have ways of trying to track these things down."

Meanwhile, Penrith issued a statement regarding the alleged stabbing which took place at a NSWRL under 20s fixture between Wentworthville and Brothers at Old Saleyards Reserve in North Parramatta on Sunday.

"The club understands an individual who previously spent time as a player in the Panthers juniors system was subsequently arrested by NSW Police. This individual is not contracted to the club and has had no involvement with the club since March."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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