NRL star Latrell Mitchell has apologised for flouting social distancing rules at the weekend and called the “cultural gathering” a “little bit of a slip up.”
The NRL has criticised two players for an “unacceptable” breach of lockdown measures by having a camping trip in rural NSW amid the coronavirus pandemic.
With the NRL season suspended due to the coronavirus, Latrell Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr camped at Mitchell’s farm near Taree, on NSW’s mid-north coast, with Addo-Carr posting photos of the trip on social media.
One picture, which circulated widely around local press, featured the rugby league stars gathered by a campfire with 10 other people.
“Ive been up here with my family for four or five weeks practising social distancing,” Mitchell said in an Instagram video apologising to fans and followers.
Mitchell added that he didn’t mean to break any rules and was trying to help family.
“I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone,” he added.
″(We) wanted to get away up to the bush and make sure we are getting culturally connected again... that was part of what of what the concept of what this weekend was.
“On behalf of me and Foxy and all my mob I do apologise.”
The NRL released a statement on Monday saying it expected its players to lead by example during this pandemic.
“On face value, the image in today’s media is both disappointing and an unacceptable breach of health orders,” the NRL said.
“The NRL will be speaking to the players involved to seek further information and we will ensure the players provide any assistance authorities require.”
Australia, which has recorded more than 6,700 COVID-19 cases and 83 deaths, has ordered people to stay at home with a few exceptions including trips to work or school, buying essential supplies and exercise.
NSW Police deputy commissioner Gary Worboys told media police would investigate the camping trip.
Addo-Carr, a winger for the Melbourne Storm, said he was with family on the trip.
“I don’t know what to say. I came up here for my pregnant missus, she’s about to have a baby, then spent some time with my family,” The Daily Telegraph, quoted him as saying.
“Mate, it was cultural gathering. Learning about our land and our culture, learning how to hunt, live off the land.”
He has also apologised on social media.
The lockdown breach has embarrassed the NRL which is trying to build trust with authorities before it attempts to restart the competition on May 28.
The season was suspended in March after two rounds due to travel restrictions aimed at containing the virus.
“We are embarking on a significant education program to ensure our players understand what is acceptable behaviour ahead of the resumption of training,” the NRL said.
“When training resumes our players and officials must comply with biosecurity protocols that go further than current government restrictions.
“On face value, today’s matter is unacceptable and we support the government in any action they believe necessary.”
Ten Daily reports the NRL players have been fined $1000 for breaking social distancing measures.
Additional reporting by Ian Ransom of Reuters.