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Koroisau suspended, fined over Origin COVID breaches

Penrith hooker Apisai Koroisau has been issued a two-game suspension and $35,000 fine for alleged COVID-19 breaches involving an unregistered female guest while he was in the NSW Origin bubble.

Koroisau allegedly brought a woman into NSW camp in the lead-up to and aftermath of Origin II in Brisbane in late June.

The NRL's breach notice, which proposes Koroisau be banned for the Panthers clash with Brisbane on Saturday and their grand final rematch with Melbourne in round 20, is in line with the punishment handed to Queensland star Jai Arrow for bringing an unregistered guest into Queensland camp leading into Origin III.

Significantly, the NRL Integrity Unit's findings and subsequent punishment have been issued on the basis that Koroisau's breaches came just after biosecurity rules were upgraded.

"In issuing the proposed penalty, the NRL has taken into account that the alleged breach took place prior to more recent breaches, including before a group of St George Illawarra Dragons players breached NSW Public Health orders and before Queensland Player Jai Arrow breached the game’s biosecurity protocols," an NRL statement said.

Cleary responds to Koroisau incident

"It also takes into account the alleged breach was shortly after an upgrade in biosecurity protocols."

A Panthers statement said the club supported the sanctions and are offering welfare assistance to the Koroisau family as the 28-year-old dummy-half prepares to accept his punishment.

"Apisai has expressed genuine remorse for his actions and understands the potential ramifications of his decisions on the viability of the game," Penrith said.

In a statement released on Friday night, Koroisau said: "I made the choice to do the wrong thing and my actions have brought shame and embarrassment to many people, especially my wife and children. I will be forever sorry," he said.

"I sincerely apologise to the NRL, NSW Rugby League, Panthers, the sponsors and stakeholders, and all my teammates for letting you down.

"I apologise to the fans for putting our game at risk, particularly at such a challenging time for so many people."

Koroisau's breach and concerns over family quarantine procedures on the Gold Coast saw a sharp warning issued by Queensland's chief health officer Jeannette Young on Friday morning.

With the entire NRL operation shifting to Queensland as a result of COVID-19 outbreaks in Sydney and Victoria, Young warned that further breaches could see the NRL's exemptions withdrawn by the government.

"I’m very, very concerned about what is happening with these NRL players," Young said.

"This is too risky. We just cannot have people deliberately breaching the rules.”

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo reminded families of the restrictions of their 14-day quarantine during a phone hook-up on Thursday night after footage emerged of people passing goods between balconies.

Abdo said the game has stepped up its Apollo protocols to Level 4 since Koroisau's Origin breach in late June.

"All club hotels, under quarantine orders, are currently fenced off from the public and patrolled by security 24 hours a day," he said.  

"We are taking every precaution to ensure there is no breach of the protocols and to keep the Queensland community safe.

"The environment has rapidly changed since this breach and players understand the consequences of failing to comply with the protocols."

Panthers coach Ivan Cleary will bring recently re-signed back-up rake Mitch Kenny into his starting side against the Broncos on Saturday.

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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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