The entire NRL competition could be in doubt after yet another of the game’s stars allegedly breached quarantine protocols within the Covid player bubble.
Troubled Wests Tigers centre James Roberts, 28, was allegedly pictured soaking in the sun of his hotel balcony – something banned by the code after players and family members were photographed passing lollies to guests on floors above and below.
The images from the Novotel Hotel in Surfers Paradise infuriated Queensland health authorities who allowed the NRL to move the entire competition to Queensland two weeks ago in the midst of Sydney’s spiralling Covid outbreak.
Troubled Wests Tigers centre James Roberts (pictured at the Gold Coast Novotel two weeks ago) was allegedly pictured soaking in the sun of his hotel balcony – something banned by the code after players and family members were photographed passing lollies to guests on floors above and below
The relocation came after a string of players were found to have breached quarantine rules prompting the state’s chief health officer Jeannette Young to issue the NRL a stark warning about the future of the competition.
Dr Young put the players, their families and the entire competition on notice saying she was ‘very close’ to kicking the NRL out of the state.
‘I’m getting very close to it,’ Dr Young said of revoking the league’s exemption.
‘I’m very, very concerned about what is happening with these NRL players. This is too risky. We just cannot have people deliberately breaching the rules.’
To make sure players did not intermingle from balcony to balcony, Queensland Health forced players to tape their doors shut.
Roberts, who has had a number of disciplinary issues during his time in the top grade, revealed earlier this year he almost quit rugby league due to his mental health struggles.
After being sacked from South Sydney and then Penrith early in his career, ‘Jimmy the Jet’ was arrested for public nuisance in 2014 on the Gold Coast when he was playing for the Titans.
He was arrested for another drunken incident while playing for the Brisbane Broncos in 2016 and would later attend various rehabilitation facilities.
In 2018, the he represented the NSW Blues in State of Origin but in the years that followed his career began to wane with injuries.
NRL families have been forced to tape their balconies shut and send photo proof to Queensland Health after they were pictured breaching quarantine rules
Pictures on Thursday show men and women staying inside the Novotel hotel in Surfers Paradise as a part of the NRL’s bubble passing lollies to people on floors above and below them on July 22
Players and families passing each other goodies was the second Covid breach in quick succession after Daily Mail Australia revealed last week that married Penrith Panthers hooker Apisai Koroisau sneaked a woman he met on Instagram into the Blues State of Origin camp.
The woman who is alleged to have met up with Koroisau said she has not yet been contacted by officials after coming forward to reveal she twice sneaked in with him.
NRL’s integrity commission immediately launched an investigation into the woman’s claims and Koroisau was fined $35,000 and banned for two games.
The woman claimed Koroisau gave her ‘strict’ instructions on how to get into the camp without being noticed.
They planned to meet a third time but the woman claimed Koroisau put an end to that dalliance hours before she was due to arrive.
The breach has thrown the entire NRL season into chaos with Queensland’s CHO Jeannette Young threatening to send the player’s packing from the state
Koroisau called off the rendezvous after Rabbitoh’s player Jai Arrow was dumped from the Maroons camp over a similar incident involving a female dancer being invited back to his hotel.
Arrow has since been slapped with a $35,000 fine and banned for two games, including next Wednesday’s Origin clash in Newcastle.
The Rabbitoh’s star admitted he was aware of the rules and is remorseful for his actions in a statement released by Queensland Rugby League.
‘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.’
Rabbitoh’s star Jai Arrow has been slapped with a $35,000 fine and banned for two games after he allegedly invited a female dancer back to his hotel in a breach of the Covid bubble
It’s understood Arrow, 25, didn’t leave the team hotel but invited the woman into the camp, pictured with his girlfriend, Miss World Australia Taylah Cannon
Koroisau was the 18th man for games one and two of the State of Origin series, and allegedly first invited the woman to join him at the Novotel in Homebush.
The Penrith Panthers hooker allegedly sneaked the woman into the camp on June 20 – one day before the team was moved to Kingscliff in New South Wales’ far north to escape Sydney’s rampant coronavirus outbreak.
The married father-of-two allegedly also met up with the woman on a second occasion, on the day of game two, when the team was in a ‘bubble’ to prevent any potential exposure to the virus.
Koroisau later issued a grovelling apology on Friday night while his wife Amy admitted she had been left ‘immensely hurt’.
‘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,’ the footy player said.
Api Koroisau has been fined $35,000 and suspended for two games he allegedly put the entire NRL competition at risk by smuggling a woman he met on Instagram into the Blues hotel on two occasions
Koroisau’s wife Amy congratulated him on Instagram for making his long-awaited debut in game three after being 18th man for the first two matches
‘I apologise to the fans for putting our game at risk, particularly at such a challenging time for so many people.
‘I apologise to my wife Amy for the pain I have caused. I’ve hurt you and the girls with my selfish, thoughtless actions.
I’m determined to become a better partner, father and protector, and hopefully rebuild trust, and earn back your love and our family.’
His wife Amy also addressed the scandal but said she had faith in her husband to learn from his mistakes.
‘While there have been some painful lies and misrepresentation in certain media reports, I don’t think it is in the best interests of our family to engage with it,’ she said.
‘Api is a great dad and although this has hurt me immensely I have no doubt he will put the necessary strategies in place to learn from this and better who he is.’
Koroisau’s wife Amy (pictured) said the scandal had hurt her ‘immensely’ but said she had faith in her husband to learn from his mistakes
Amy and the pair’s two daughters will spend 14 days in hotel quarantine at a Gold Coast hotel before moving north to the Sunshine Coast, where Koroisau and his teammates are based
The league confirmed the punishment would be handed down to the player on Friday night with the Panthers releasing a statement that said they supported the decision handed down to the player.
‘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,’ the league said in a statement.
‘It also takes into account the alleged breach was shortly after an upgrade in biosecurity protocols.
‘It’s alleged Koroisau attended the hotel room of an individual who was not part of the team’s biosecurity bubble on 27 June.
‘The NRL is offering ongoing welfare support to Koroisau’s family.’
NRL boss Peter V’landys delivered a stern warning to NRL players and their families this week, threatening harsh penalties for anyone who had breached the Covid bubble
The NRL has gone to extreme lengths to keep the game alive since the pandemic began 18 months ago, including demanding all players enter a ‘bubble’ to avoid potential outbreaks.
ARLC Chairmen Peter V’landys delivered NRL players and their families another stern warning this week.
‘Anyone who’s breached the bubble and put the game and the income of fellow players at risk will be heavily penalised if the allegations are proven true,’ V’landys said on 2GB.
‘It was first brought to the attention of the NSWRL yesterday who then referred it to the integrity department. We haven’t really had a chance to investigate it and see the veracity of the allegations.
‘We certainly penalised the St George Illawarra team and Jai Arrow and it will be no different if these allegations are proven. At the moment they are just allegations and we need to investigate them.’