The NRL has handed down $305,000 in fines after 13 Dragons players held a party on July 3, in breach of the league’s Level 4 Biosecurity Protcols.
NSW Police were alerted to the party at prop Paul Vaughan’s Shellharbour home after a noise complaint from neighbours.
It subsequently emerged Vaughan hosted teammates Blake Lawrie, Corey Norman, Daniel Alvaro, Jack Bird, Josh Kerr, Josh McGuire, Kaide Ellis, Matthey Dufty, Tyrell Fuimaono, Zac Lomax, Jack de Belin and Gerard Beale at his house on Saturday evening.
Players allegedly attempted to flee the scene or hide on the premises when the police arrived.
NRL 360 reports de Belin was hiding under a bed when police raided the party.
Between them, the 13 have been issued fines totalling $305,000, with the NRL taking past indiscretions and the players’ salaries into account.
In addition, the NRL has hit Vaughan, who also breached the league’s biosecurity rules in 2020, with an eight-match suspension.
Vaughan’s $50,000 fine is the maximum financial penalty that can be handed down by the NRL to a player.
The league also alleges Vaughan was among the players to withhold key information from the NRL integrity unit when asked about the breach over the weekend.
The league has proposed all other attendees serve one-match bans for their involvement in the breach.
The Dragons will be permitted to spread the bans across a minimum of two rounds and a maximum of four to ensure they are still able to field a team each week.
Of the side’s 17 that defeated the Warriors on Friday night, 11 attended the party.
The NRL’s punishment comes one day after NSW Police issued each of the attendees with $1,000 fines.
In a statement released Monday evening, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo alleged the players jeopardised the NRL season by deliberately disregarding the league’s Covid-19 protocols.
“In our view the actions of the players were deliberate and some of the players withheld key information from the integrity unit,” he said.
“On the information we have, the players understood the protocols and deliberately chose to ignore them, they chose to risk the continuity of our competition. The sanctions handed down today puts every player in the game on notice, particularly repeat offenders – this sort of conduct will not be tolerated.
“There are many people working incredibly hard to keep the competition going – it’s a privilege to play football, not a right. We’ve made promises to the community and to state governments and we will do everything we can to honour those promises. I want to stress that there are almost 900 players and officials following strict biosecurity measures and the overwhelming number are doing the right thing, as they did last year.
“We will continue to work with all clubs and state governments to ensure compliance, the health and safety of the community, our players and officials the continuity of the competition.”
In a separate statement, Dragons CEO Ryan Webb stood by the NRL’s punishment and condemned the conduct of the 13 players.
“The 13 players’ arrogance and ignorance to both the NRL biosecurity protocols and the state government’s public health order is upsetting and infuriating,” he said.
“All 13 players have let the rest of their teammates, the entirety of our hard-working staff, their families, the wider community and most importantly our Red V members, partners and fans, down.
“The entire club and our stakeholders will now be punished as a result of the combined 20-week suspension procured between the 13 players.
“The Dragons hold no reservations over the punishments handed down by the NRL Integrity Unit or NSW Police given the players’ complete disregard for both the game and community’s expectations.”
The players have five days to respond to the breach notice or else accept their punishment.
The saga has the potential to derail the Dragons’ bid to play finals for the first time since 2018.
Anthony Griffin’s side sits seventh on the ladder, but with the Sharks, Knights and Cowboys all only two competition points behind, the joint venture is no certainty to finish the season in the top eight.
The NRL’s fines for the Dragons’ Covid-19 breaches are:
Blake Lawrie – $20,000
Corey Norman – $50,000
Daniel Alvaro – $15,000
Jack Bird – $25,000
Josh Kerr – $18,000
Josh McGuire – $12,000
Kaide Ellis – $5,000
Matt Dufty – $23,000
Paul Vaughan – $50,000
Tyrell Fuimaono – $12,000
Zac Lomax – $31,000
Jack de Belin – $42,000
Gerard Beale – $2,000
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