May 13, 2020 / 4:13 AM / 12 days ago

Australia winger Addo-Carr to fight social distancing sanctions

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australian rugby league player Josh Addo-Carr will contest a social distancing sanction handed down by the National Rugby League for going camping at fellow international Latrell Mitchell’s farm, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

Addo-Carr and Mitchell were each given suspended one-match bans and A$20,000 ($12,900) fines, with A$30,000 suspended, by the NRL, along with A$1,000 fines by police, for breaching self-isolation protocols.

Prominent Sydney lawyer Elias Tabchouri said Melbourne Storm winger Addo-Carr had engaged him to help overturn the NRL sanction.

“The legislation allows for you to move around if you have a reasonable excuse and the limitation in relation to two people gathering together relate to being in a public place,” Tabchouri told Reuters.

“And we say that there are arguments available with regard to those two points that will indicate that he may not be guilty of breaching the COVID-19 legislation.”

New South Wales state was under strict lockdown in late-April during the players’ camping trip but has moved to ease some social restrictions in recent weeks as infection rates of the new coronavirus have plunged.

A third NRL player on the camping trip, Newcastle Knights’ Tyronne Roberts-Davis, was fined A$4,000, with A$6,000 suspended, by the NRL and A$1,000 by police.

The players posted pictures and videos of the trip on social media, including one picture which showed them among a group of 12 men gathered by a campfire.

Addo-Carr publicly apologised last month for the camping trip and said it had been organised to help a relative cope with a personal problem and reconnect with traditional Aboriginal culture.

A fourth NRL player, Penrith Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary, was fined A$4,000, with A$6,000 suspended, last month for breaching public health orders by hosting a group of women at his home.

Cleary’s sanction was hiked to a two-match ban this week and a A$30,000 fine after the NRL found he had been “untruthful” about his account of the breach.

The relatively light sanction given initially to Cleary, who is white, led to accusations of double-standards, prompting NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo to tell local media the difference in the fines had “nothing to do with culture or race”.

Tabchouri said Addo-Carr’s fine was disproportionate.

“Parity-wise, even if (Addo-Carr) were guilty, Nathan Cleary was fined A$10,000,” he said.

“We’re fined A$50,000, the maximum penalty available. They’ve categorised this (breach) as the worst case scenario. And that can’t be the worst case scenario.”

Tabchouri said Addo-Carr had made a submission to the NRL’s integrity unit and was waiting for their response.

He said the 24-year-old was also considering contesting the police fine and would decide soon whether to pursue it.

The NRL has yet to respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The season was suspended after two rounds in March due to the coronavirus but is scheduled to restart with matches at closed stadiums from May 28.

Addo-Carr and Mitchell are also facing police charges related to firearms offences which were brought after video posted on social media showed Addo-Carr using a gun during the camping trip. The pair are to appear in court in August.

Editing by Peter Rutherford

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