The Maroons have been rocked by a major scandal involving star forward Jai Arrow, less than a week out from State of Origin Game Three.
The NRL has confirmed Arrow has been suspended for next Sunday’s dead-rubber clash in Newscastle for allegedly breaching COVID-19 protocols by bringing an “unregistered guest” back to the team hotel on the Gold Coast.
The 25-year-old has also copped a $35,000 fine and has been sent packing back to Sydney where he will now undergo a 14-day isolation period at home.
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The breach will also see the Rabbitohs star ruled out of South Sydney’s round 18 clash against Canterbury.
All players are currently required to abide by the NRL’s level-four Apollo protocols, which means they can only leave their homes (or team hotel) for training or to shop for essential items.
Under the protocols, visitors from outside the “COVID-19 bubble” are strictly prohibited.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo described the incident as a clear breach.
“In our view this is a clear breach of our biosecurity protocols, Jai has been placed into isolation from the squad and will return home to Sydney,” he said.
“There are no excuses for breaching the protocols, they are our licence to continue playing – players have to comply, or we will all face the consequences.
“I want to be very clear, any material deliberate repeat offence by a player will result in us removing that player from the approved bubble roster.”
Abdo said the NRL’s Apollo team moved quickly to minimise the risk to the rest of the team and whole Queensland community.
“I’d like to thank Queensland Health for their ongoing assistance in managing the situation and ensuring community health and safety,” Abdo said.
In a statement released by the Queensland Maroons on Thursday afternoon, Arrow apologised for his actions, saying he was extremely remorseful.
“I know I have let a lot of people down, including my teammates, coaching staff and fans right across the rugby league community,” Arrow said.
“For this I am truly sorry. I have fully cooperated with the NRL Integrity Unit, and I understand the scrutiny and criticism coming my way.”
It comes just days after the NRL dished out more than $300,000 in fines to 13 St George Illawarra Dragons players for an illegal party at player Paul Vaughan’s house, which later saw Vaughan sacked by the club.