ARL Commission boss Peter V’landys called increasing community transmissions in NSW “a concern” as the code issued a strong reminder to all players and officials in biosecurity bubbles on Monday.
Staines took himself to the emergency department at Nepean Hospital at 2.30am on Sunday morning to treat a case of lockjaw, a condition he has suffered from in the past.
Club officials realised he had his parents, his sister, the parents of his partner and four friends at his place of residence only when they visited later that day to check on him.
NRL players are allowed 10 people at their residence each day, but only in groups of five.
Sources familiar with the situation said Staines had already turned away dozens more after he etched his name into the record books against the Sharks and almost sent a pub in his hometown of Forbes dry.
Staines, who went to hospital without any personal protective equipment such as a face mask or gloves, has been stood down as an interim measure.
“Charlie has been extremely naive on this occasion and inadvertently breached the protocols that are in place to protect the game,” Panthers chief executive Brian Fletcher said.
Charlie has been extremely naive on this occasion and inadvertently breached the protocols that are in place to protect the game
“His misunderstanding of the specifics of the guidelines cannot be overlooked, nor can his failure to contact the club before seeking medical treatment for his jaw condition.”
It was the last incident on a worrying day for the code, which is still expecting capped crowds at matches this weekend despite Sydney grappling with an increased number COVID-19 cases.
The Star and Canterbury League Club also reported on Monday a person who had tested positive to COVID-19 had attended their premises one day earlier this month.
The NRL has slowly wound back restrictions on players, including last month allowing them to visit a local cafe, play golf and go to the supermarket.
But clear evidence of person-to-person spreading of coronavirus has the NRL awaiting advice from NSW Health about the status of crowds, which have been capped at 25 per cent of venue capacity under social distancing measures since July 1.
The NRL’s biosecurity expert, Associate Professor David Heslop, said it was not inevitable Sydney would be struck with a second wave of infections despite the Victorian government ordering Melbourne into lockdown for six weeks.
“We’re in a far more luxurious position in that we’ve already been alerted at a very early stage,” Heslop said.
“I don’t think we’ll have a second wave the magnitude of Victoria. We might have smaller outbreaks that will need to be directly controlled, which is very different to south of the border. We’ll do what’s required to keep the competition going.
“At this stage, the protocols we’ve put in place are unchanged. We’re scrutinising everything everyone is doing very carefully.
“We’ve communicated again [on Monday] directly with all players, their families and officials about the importance of sticking to the protocols. We are confident at this point it is sufficient to manage the risk to the community and the NRL.”
V’landys quickly parachuted the Storm out of Melbourne when the infection rate started climbing in Victoria, basing Craig Bellamy’s squad on the Sunshine Coast. The club is almost resigned to spending the rest of the season in Queensland.
Asked whether he expected crowds to still be at NRL matches later this month, V’landys said: “The advice from the government at the moment is the crowds are still fine, but we’ve just got to wait and see what happens in the next few days. If it gets worse, we’ll naturally have to review it.
“At the moment we’re sitting, looking and analysing to see if there’s a genuine trend. As I’ve said many times, we base all our decisions on the data. It’s a concern, but I’m not one to overreact at the moment. But what’s happening today may be completely different tomorrow.”
Averillo, who made his NRL debut in March, will miss the Bulldogs’ clash with St George Illawarra in Wollongong this weekend until further testing is conducted on his parents.
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Sam is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.