NRL warned: ‘the competition will get shut down’
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said the NRL must suspend any player who breached COVID-19 health guidelines between now and May 28, warning: "If it happens in the season, the competition will get shut down."
A key player in the Project Apollo relaunch, Barilaro revealed the NSW Government would recommend to ARLC chairman Peter V'landys that he suspend any player who breaches distancing protocols during its second "pre-season".
Barilaro also revealed, to ensure players understood the severity of a wrong action, that he would suspend Penrith halfback Nathan Cleary for the rest of the season after having twice appeared before the NRL integrity unit this week.
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While Cleary was not fined by NSW Police for having a group of women inside his home, Barilaro said the fact the NSW Origin star failed to initially disclose several social media videos that were eventually aired represented "broken trust".
It is understood the NRL could announce further sanctions against Cleary on Friday.
"If the NRL competition gets signed off, the cost of any (social-distancing) breach after May 28 will be significant," Barilaro said.
"And I'm not talking financial cost. If a player breaches guidelines once the competition starts, it will get shut down. It's that simple."
This week, Barilaro suggested that he was happy with the $44,000 dished out in monetary sanctions against NRL superstars Cleary, Latrell Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr.
Mitchell and Addo-Carr were filmed camping, shooting and riding motorbikes on the South Sydney fullback's property near Taree on the mid north coast.
"And at the time, they were fair," he said.
"But now we find out Nathan Cleary didn't own up to everything he did.
"Things were kept hidden. And I can't forgive that. So while I hate saying it, I think he should be stood down for the rest of the season. A clear message needs to be sent."
"To get the NRL season up and running, we must have trust," he said.
"Yes, there are the naysayers out there who don't want to see this rugby league restart happen.
"But for those of us who have been strong supporters, the message has always been 'trust us, trust us, trust us'.
"But when players do the wrong thing, it's lost.
"They broke the trust we are asking everyone to give us. Which is why a strong message needs to be sent right across the competition to every single player, reaffirming the importance of doing the right thing."