Rugby league stars Latrell Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr have apologised as NSW Police and the NRL investigate whether the duo broke social-distancing laws.
Mitchell admitted on Instagram on Monday afternoon the pair had “slipped up” after Addo-Carr on Sunday posted images on social media of them among a group on a property near Taree, on the NSW mid-north coast, at the weekend.
On the same day the NRL gave clubs a draft of strict new biosecurity rules for the ambitious season restart on May 28, the photos showed the pair with 10 other men around a fire.
There are also videos of Melbourne Storm winger Addo-Carr on a dirt bike.
“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,” he wrote.
On Monday, the NRL called the images “unacceptable”.
If found to have broken the laws, the people on Mitchell’s property will likely face on-the-spot fines of $1000. The maximum penalty for breaking NSW’s social-distancing laws is $11,000 or six months in prison.
Mitchell insisted he and Addo-Carr did not mean to flout rules imposed by the federal and state governments to stem the coronavirus pandemic.
“I have been up here with my family for four or five weeks practising social distancing,” Mitchell said in a video.
“It was a little bit of a slip up.
“Foxy (Addo-Carr) reached out, his cousins are going through a bit of stuff up in Sydney.
“He just wanted to get up to the bush and make sure they were getting cultured and connected again.
“That was the whole part of the concept of what the weekend was.
“It wasn’t here to break any rules or hurt anyone.
“We’re not being selfish, I couldn’t turn down the brothers in a time of need.
“On behalf of Foxy and all my mob, we do want to apologise.”
A repentant Addo-Carr said “nothing was intentional or deliberate” as he tried to “put a smile on the faces” of family members going through a tough time.
All NRL players agreed to health and safety protocols when the competition was stopped for the shutdown.
Melbourne said it would leave any punishment of Storm winger Addo-Carr about the breach to “relevant authorities”, while South Sydney said it would ensure Mitchell cooperated with investigations.
Newcastle is investigating the involvement of Tyronne Roberts-Davis after the NRL squad member was seen in one of Addo-Carr’s photos.
The drama could not have come at a worse time for the NRL as it attempts to convince government it can safely resume its season on May 28, ahead of other major codes.
“On face value, the image in today’s media is both disappointing and an unacceptable breach of health orders,” the governing body 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.
“Our players are role models and we expect them to lead by example during this pandemic.”
Under proposed NRL biosecuity rules for the season resumption, players would stay home – with no visitors allowed – except when training, playing, making doctor’s visits and doing essential food shopping.
The NRL has threatened teams with the loss of points and heavy fines if any player breaks the rules.
“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.
“On face value, today’s matter is unacceptable and we support the government in any action they believe necessary.”
Despite some states starting to relax coronavirus restrictions, NSW residents are still confined to their homes except for work, essential shopping, personal exercise, medical appointments and compassionate visits.
“The matter will be investigated. What action is taken will fall out of that investigation,” NSW Deputy Police Commissioner Gary Worboys said.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian would not comment on Monday on whether it would affect the game’s chances of a May 28 resumption.