MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The National Rugby League has launched a fresh probe into a social distancing breach by Nathan Cleary after videos emerged of the Penrith Panthers halfback dancing with women on Tiktok.
Cleary on Tuesday was fined A$4,000 (2,085 pounds), with another A$6,000 suspended, by the NRL after he was seen in a photograph with a group of women sitting on his lounge at home in defiance of public health orders aimed at containing the coronavirus.
The 22-year-old apologised in an interview with local broadcaster Channel Nine late on Tuesday, saying the women were his sister’s friends and had popped in to his house for 10 minutes while waiting for an Uber.
New videos emerged on Wednesday of Cleary dancing with the women, calling into question his account.
Australia’s New South Wales state, where Cleary lives, is still under a strict lockdown to contain the virus, with people banned from having anyone in their homes besides those who live there on a permanent basis.
Cleary was one of four players fined by the NRL on Tuesday and given suspended one-match bans for social distancing breaches.
The four included two Australian rugby league internationals, Latrell Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr, who were charged by police with firearms offences while on a camping trip in rural New South Wales over the weekend.
The breaches have been hugely embarrassing for the NRL, which has been at pains to convince authorities it can safely restart the season on March 28.
The season was suspended after two rounds in March due to travel curbs making it untenable.
A slew of Australian lawmakers have criticised the players, and Queensland-based senator Matthew Canavan said the NRL sanctions dealt to the players were not heavy enough.
“These guys are knuckleheads for doing what they’re doing,” Canavan said.
“There are hundreds of staff at football clubs being laid off over the last couple of months and they’re putting all of that at risk with this behaviour.”
Australia has reported more than 6,700 cases of COVID-19, with 88 deaths.
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore