Peter V'Landys wants NRL players to get priority access for COVID-19 vaccine

ARLC chairman Peter V'Landys earned widespread praise after the NRL became the first major Australian sport to return to play successfully amid the coronavirus pandemic NRL Photos - Pool/Getty Images

Australian Rugby League Commission [ARLC] chairman Peter V'Landys is hopeful NRL players will be given priority access to vaccinations for COVID-19.

As the Australian Government prepares to commence its rollout of both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs from next month, V'Landys wants NRL players to be near the top of the vaccination chain.

V'Landys says the NRL is preparing to put a case to the Federal Government that would result in rugby league players given the jabs in phase 3 of the national rollout.

"Emergency workers have got to get it first and the most vulnerable have got to get it first. Who is after that? Well, that's where we come in," V'landys told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"Under no circumstances are we going to jump the gun and go before emergency workers and the most vulnerable.

"But after that, there's naturally some discussions to be had, to be on that list relatively high."

The NRL's impending request follows that of Cricket Australia [CA] which is hoping Australia's Test squad can be vaccinated before it departs for South Africa, where a second wave of the virus peaked at more than 25,000 cases per day earlier in January.

England abandoned its cricket tour of South Africa in early December citing "player welfare".

CA's request drew criticism in some quarters, but may have paved the way for other sporting bodies to pursue early vaccinations as part of Australia's rollout plan.

An expedited vaccination plan for the NRL could help ease the fixture pain on New Zealand's Warriors, who were forced to relocate to Australia for almost the entirety of the 2020 season after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I understand what Cricket Australia is trying to do, they're trying to go for a tour, and naturally, they want to protect the health of their players so I've got nothing against what they've tried to do," V'landys said.

"We want Australian players going over to New Zealand as well."

The NRL returns on Mar. 11 with the Warriors set to spend the first four rounds in Australia, before they are hopeful of a return to their Auckland base in Round 5 against Manly.