Broncos players under investigation over alleged COVID breach

Queensland Police have confirmed they’re investigating claims up to ten Brisbane Broncos players may have breached coronavirus restrictions after attending a pub for lunch earlier this month.

A special task force has been set up to investigate the matter, however the Broncos are adamant they did not think they breached restrictions.

In a statement, the club said they are “aware of an alleged COVID breach by a group of players” who attended the Everton Park Hotel for lunch on Saturday August 1.

The Broncos said it was the same day that players and staff inside the club’s ‘covid bubble’ had transitioned back into more-relaxed Project Apollo Queensland restrictions.

“The team had played Cronulla at Suncorp Stadium the night before, which marked the end of a 14-day hard lockdown put in place after the team travelled to Sydney for the Round 10 game against the West Tigers on July 17,” the club said in a statement.

“The players were of the understanding that lunch at the hotel was permissible under the more-relaxed restrictions which they were under at the time.”

Police confirmed they were notified of “multiple people breaching the public health directions at a hotel in Everton Park” on Sunday August 9.

“As the investigation remains ongoing, the QPS is unable to provide further comment,” Qld police said in a statement.

State Disaster Coordinator Steve Gollschewski said the hotel has been cooperating with the investigation.

“We have been able to get good cooperation from the hotel so we have no concerns around the hotel and how it has conducted itself,” he said.

“The issue really is of whether there is evidence of any breach by members of that group against the Chief health officers directions.”

Once police have finalised their investigation into the incident, the NRL integrity unit will then determine whether or not the players breached their protocols and hand down any necessary punishments.

“In terms of whether they have breached the NRL’s requirements is a matter for the NRL,” State Disaster Coordinator Gollschewski confirmed.

NRL Football

NRL set to consider bigger COVID sanctions

The NRL will consider heavier sanctions for players and officials who breach the bubble, with Peter V’landys warning they are putting all Queensland teams at risk.

Brisbane enforcer Tevita Pangai Jr on Sunday became the latest high-profile player to fall foul of the rules, banished into 14 days of isolation away from his team.

The young star was caught attending the opening of a barber shop on Saturday, less than 24 hours after his team played in Sydney.

He became the sixth rugby league figure to be sanctioned in just four days, after Wayne Bennett, Paul Vaughan and three Broncos officials including Allan Langer.

Newcastle also confirmed two players – reported to be young winger Starford To’a and uncapped playmaker Simi Sasagi – had been placed into a COVID hold.

The club informed the NRL of a potential breach on Sunday and will investigate further on Monday morning.

V’landys was left incredibly frustrated by the latest incidents, given he expected Bennett’s high-profile breach to be a wake-up for everyone just two days earlier.

While Pangai Jr is expected to be fined, V’Landys said that the next step would be to consider bigger punishments for players that could even extend to suspensions.

“We’re going to have to look at (heavier sanctions),” V’landys told AAP.

“I just can’t express my disappointment.

“In anything you do there is always that one per cent that brings everyone else down. But we just hope people realise what the ramifications are.

“We’re not going to tolerate it.”

The ARL Commission chairman warned players they were not only putting the competition and game’s finances at risk, but the wellbeing of fellow players.

The Queensland government has granted the NRL an exemption for teams to travel across their hard border into NSW but V’landys cautioned that every breach put that at risk.

“We hope this is a wake-up call. I just hope they realise the repercussions,” he said.

“It’s a very selfish act, because they put into jeopardy every other player who is in Queensland at the moment.

“How would they feel if the Queensland government pulled the exemption?

“We would have to move every player to NSW.

“It could mean all their colleagues would have to move away from their families.”

“How would they feel if that’s what they caused?”

It’s been reported Pangai Jr’s presence was discovered during a police raid of the business, with several alleged bikie gang members suspected of being at the property.

While there’s no suggestion Pangai Jr was involved in illegal activity the Broncos are looking into the situation.

“The Broncos are investigating the circumstances around the matter to determine what further action may be taken,” the club said in a statement on Sunday.

The Tonga international will be unavailable for Saturday’s clash with Canberra and the following weekend’s game against St George Illawarra for the second-last Broncos.

Broncos coach Anthony Seibold is serving a 14-day isolation period after he opted to stay in Sydney for a family matter with assistant coach Peter Gentle to lead the team for the next two weeks.

© AAP 2020

Broncos NRL star latest to breach bubble

Brisbane enforcer Tevita Pangai Jr will spend the next 14 days in self-isolation after breaching the NRL’s COVID-19 protocols.

The forward played in Sydney on Friday night as the Broncos slumped to their 10th NRL defeat in 11 matches with a 28-10 loss to South Sydney.

Under the competition’s protocols, members of a team which has returned to Queensland from NSW are to enter a strict lockdown for a 14-day period.

The Broncos said Pangai Jr attended the opening of a Brisbane barber shop on Saturday, in breach of those stricter protocols.

It’s been reported Pangai Jr’s presence was discovered during a police raid of the business, with several alleged bikie gang members suspected of being at the property.

While there’s no suggestion Pangai Jr was involved in illegal activity the Broncos are looking into the situation.

“The Broncos are investigating the circumstances around the matter to determine what further action may be taken,” the club said in a statement on Sunday.

The 24-year-old Pangai Jr has been stood down for two weeks and charged with a breach of the competition’s protocols.

As a result, the Tonga international will be unavailable for Saturday’s clash with Canberra and the following weekend’s game against St George Illawarra for the second-last Broncos.

He’s the latest NRL identity caught breaching the protocols this week after Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett, Dragons forward Paul Vaughan and three Broncos staff members, including ex-Test player Allan Langer, were all fined for breaches.

Broncos coach Anthony Seibold is serving a 14-day isolation period after he opted to stay in Sydney for a family matter with assistant coach Peter Gentle to lead the team for the next two weeks.

© AAP 2020

Wayne Bennett

Bennett fined $20,000 for bubble breach

Wayne Bennett’s Italian lunch date will cost him $20,000 to go with his two weeks away from his players after the NRL came down on South Sydney’s master coach.

The NRL confirmed Bennett would cop the biggest fine of all biosecurity offenders in the past week, with Paul Vaughan hit with a $10,000 sanction for his morning cafe visit.

Brisbane legend and assistant Allan Langer became the latest to be caught transgressing the rules on Friday, and has been fined $5000 by the NRL.

Langer, Broncos strength and conditioning coach Ryan Whitley and head of rehab Blake Duncan were sidelined on Friday and stopped from flying with the team to Sydney.

“Strict adherence to our biosecurity protocols are vitally important,” Abdo said.

“Players or officials who breach these protocols face missing matches and significant fines.

“It is important everyone within club bubbles follows the protocols, not only so the season continues, but to ensure no risk to the general community.”

It came as Canberra coach Ricky Stuart insisted there could be no confusion over the NRL’s biosecurity laws, accepting the whole game’s future is at stake.

Bennett suggested on Thursday he couldn’t keep up with the NRL’s rules after players were forced back into a tighter bubble last month.

But Stuart said both he and the players were well aware and often reminded of their obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everyone understands the rules and everybody is consistently made aware of it,” Stuart said.

“I would love to go to the pub and have a beer with my mates. I would love to go to lunch or have dinner with the family.

“But we can’t. They are just tough times at the moment. But under tough times you find out the true character of people.

“It’s a multi-million dollar business at stake here. We’ve got to be mindful of that.”

Stuart did not reference Bennett directly, but it comes after ARLC chairman Peter V’landys warned offenders they were putting generations of NRL players at risk financially.

“Sometimes mistakes are made. We all know what we need to do. I don’t want to touch on (Bennett’s restaurant visit),” Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire said.

“He’s achieved a lot in the game … Sometimes you might make a little bit of a mistake. Everyone is aware of where we are at the moment.

“It’s a good message for all of us and a little reminder.”

Meanwhile Langer and his Broncos colleagues issue come after attending a private function in Brisbane last weekend.

AAP understands the function was held last weekend in a private room at a Brisbane pub to celebrate Langer’s recent 54th birthday.

After being made aware of the fact, the Broncos told the NRL who advised the trio should undergo testing.

“As a precaution, those staff have been placed on “COVID Holds” and will undergo testing before returning to the Project Apollo bubble,” the Broncos said in a statement.

Queensland-based players and officials can go to cafes and restaurants after more than 14 days since their last game against Sydney-based teams, but pubs are still prohibited.

© AAP 2020

Suns sensation Matt Rowell extends contract with Gold Coast

The Gold Coast SUNS have been given a major boost with young gun Matt Rowell signing a two-year contract extension.

It means the 2019 Draft number one pick will remain on the Gold Coast until at least the end of 2023.

Rowell burst onto the AFL scene this year, nabbing himself a rising star nomination before sadly suffering a shoulder injury in Round five against Geelong.

Despite being sidelined for likely the rest of the year, Rowell said he was looking forward to his future on the Coast.

“I’m very excited to commit myself to the Gold Coast SUNS… I’ve loved the football club since I’ve arrived and I couldn’t be happier to extend for another two years,” he said.

“Getting to play my first game was really something special, I’ve been dreaming of it my whole life.

“I loved running out with the boys and to be a part of a few wins for the club was exciting. I can’t wait to have that feeling again.”

The recently turned 19-year old said he is remaining positive despite the shoulder injury and is focused on his rehabilitation.

“It’s obviously frustrating, but that’s footy, you get injuries,” he said.

“I’ve had a positive mindset since it happened and I’m looking forward to coming back bigger and better.”

In a message that will excite SUNS members, Rowell promised to take his game to another level when he returned.

“I’m doing all I can to improve myself and my game and I can’t wait to get back out there in front of our members at Metricon Stadium again,” he said.