Thoughtless acts of Addo-Carr and Mitchell could ruin NRL return plans

On the first day after the NRL released its intricate plans to ensure a safe return to the playing fields on May 28, two of the game's biggest stars are under police investigation for totally disregarding social distancing laws.

Melbourne Storm's Josh Addo-Carr posted photos on Instagram of himself, South Sydney Rabbitohs fullback Latrell Mitchell and around 10 others enjoying a camping, dirt-bike riding and shooting weekend on a farm near Taree. The photos have since been deleted while they carried no time stamp during the period they were live on the social media site.

Accompanying the photos Addo-Carr wrote: "Blackfulla adventures Camping with the brothers on @iam_lm01 (Latrell Mitchell's) property biripi country, throwing the bikes around & hunting, I'm next to buy a big property I think."

Having realised the seriousness of the situation they have put themselves in, Addo-Carr and Mitchell both took to Instagram on Monday to apologise.

"I'd like to apologise for my actions this weekend, nothing was intentional or deliberate, Addo-Carr said.

"A couple of family members of mine were going through a really tough time at the moment and I got in contact with Latrell to go out to his private property and try and connect with the culture, to our culture again ... I can't wait to go out there and finally play some footy. And like I said before, I'm really sorry."

Mitchell, who has spent the last four five weeks on his property social distancing, also pointed to the connection with the Indigenous culture as to why the duo had been part of such a large group.

"There's a little bit of a slip-up," Mitchell said. "Foxy [Addo-Carr] reached out, his cousins who are going through some stuff in Sydney so he wanted to get away to the bush and make sure they're getting culturally connected again.

"That was the whole part of the concept of this weekend. I wasn't here to break any rules or hurt anyone. We're not being selfish, I couldn't turn down the brothers in their time of need. On behalf of Foxy and all my mob we do apologise."

While no-one would begrudge the duo, or their families, from wanting to connect with the land, these are not normal times.

Peter V'landys, chairman of the Australia Rugby League Commission [ARLC] must be absolutely fuming after spending a lot of time and effort recently fronting news services convincing everyone that the May 28 resumption date was both realistic and completely safe. The cornerstone of his convictions being the very tight regulations the NRL will have in place for all players involved.

To have two of his biggest stars thumbing their noses at the simple restrictions currently imposed on every member of society raises real doubts about V'Landys' assertions that the NRL is capable of restarting its competition safely in one month's time.

The 48-page biosecurity document released by the NRL lists how the game will be conducted safely when it returns; it includes temperature checks, daily cleaning of equipment, single access to venues and isolation for players in their homes except for travelling to training, playing, doctor's visits or essential food shopping; as well as restrictions on training in public spaces outside of the club environment, and a ban on using public transport, taxis and car sharing. All of this coming once each player's living arrangements are inspected and deemed to be safe.

The NRL has promised fines and loss of competition points for any clubs in breach of the strict guidelines. For this to work, it is obvious that all involved will be virus free when the NRL restrictions start up. Any player found to be infected would have to sit out the required quarantine time.

Addo-Carr and Mitchell have put themselves in danger of infection by ignoring those guidelines.

"On face value, the image in today's media is both disappointing and an unacceptable breach of health orders," the NRL said in a statement.

"The NRL will be speaking to the players involved to seek further information and we will ensure the players provide any assistance authorities require.

"Our players are role models and we expect them to lead by example during this pandemic."

"On face value, today's matter is unacceptable and we support the government in any action they believe necessary."

A wry grin must have cracked the lips of former NRL CEO Todd Greenberg when he heard the news this morning. He spent the last four years as head of the NRL, before that as head of Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs, dealing with the various mistakes or misadventures from players who had forgotten their responsibilities to the game.

That is no longer Greenberg's problem.

It could potentially be a massive issue for V'Landys, though. He will first have to await the investigation by NSW Police; if it does turn out that Addo-Carr and Mitchell are sanctioned, than the league will have no choice but to come down hard on the NSW Origin duo as well.

NRL players are no strangers to off-field indiscretions, but when so many people are working hard to get the game back on track, and the majority of players are taking their responsibilities seriously, this "slip-up" is particularly disappointing.

And the NRL's credibility, when it is more important than ever, takes a hit as a result.