The Brisbane Broncos and 10 players have been issued a breach notice and fined $140,000 by the NRL for breaching the game's biosecurity protocols.
The breach concerns the visit of the players to the Everton Park Hotel on August 1 at a time when the players were permitted to dine at restaurants and cafes, but not permitted to sit in pubs and gaming areas.
The breach notice proposes that the Broncos club be fined $75,000 and each of the club's full-time players – of which there are seven – be fined five per cent of their salaries totalling $65,000.
The three development players involved – Ethan Bullemor, Josh James and Tyson Gamble– will have a portion of their fines suspended.
The seven full-time players who have been slapped with fines are Jake Turpin, Kotoni Staggs, David Fifita, Cory Paix, Keenan Palasia, Sean O’Sullivan and Corey Oates.
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NRL Acting Chief Executive Andrew Abdo said the NRL Integrity Unit had considered all obtained information before issuing the breach.
"We have taken our time to thoroughly investigate this matter so we could gather as much evidence as possible to determine exactly what happened at the venue," he said.
"It is our view that this breach involved a significant failure of the club to properly administer the League’s biosecurity protocols."
In response, the Broncos have accepted the sanctions handed down by the NRL.
Club CEO Paul White, in a statement, said that the club had not approved the pub visit by the players and added that club officials were not aware it was taking place.
It is our view that this breach involved a significant failure of the club to properly administer the League’s biosecurity protocolsNRL acting CEO Andrew Abdo
"We accept the imposition of the $75,000 fine, as the club has ultimate accountability for the actions of our players," White said.
"The players will also pay a price in terms of individual sanctions totalling $65,000. It is an expensive lesson for us all, but it reinforces how important these protocols are to the survival of our competition and community health."
The Queensland Police Service had earlier launched its own investigation into the matter, with police authorities confirming its own enquiries "found no breach of the Chief Health Officer's public health directions".
The point was made by the QPS at the time that whether the players had breached Project Apollo rules were a matter for the NRL.
In other instances, players and officials in Sydney who have breached NRL biosecurity protocols have been placed in 14-day COVID-holds.
The Broncos players will be allowed to continue to play and train and Abdo explained why that was the case while outlining the "two aspects to every biosecurity breach".
"Firstly, a biosecurity assessment is carried out by our experts to determine the risk of infection to other players and the general community," Abdo said.
"In this case, it was determined that the risk was negligible given the conduct of the players, the timing of disclosure and the lack of community transmission in Brisbane. As such, the advice from our experts was that there was no need for players to be placed on a 'COVID Hold'.
"In other cases, players and officials who breached protocols in or around hotspots in NSW were placed on a 14-day 'COVID Hold' because infection rates in those regions are much higher. Those decisions were based on a biosecurity risk assessment, not an NRL suspension."
With regard to the "second phase", Abdo said that the NRL's approach to sanctioning players, officials or clubs would focus on "financial penalties in most cases".
Abdo said that the Broncos sanctions had sent "another clear message to all players, officials and clubs that breaching protocols will not be tolerated."