Australia’s drama-charged National Rugby League (NRL) cannot seem to catch a break. With Sydney’s latest COVID-19 outbreak spiraling, hundreds of NRL players and their families have been forced to relocate to Queensland mid-season. But since then, there have been multiple reports of COVID-19 bubble breaches, which have put the game’s future at risk. The latest scandalous development comes in the form of drones being deployed as creepy, electronic Peeping Toms to keep the players and their families in check.
According to Australia’s largest locally owned media company, Nine, drones are spying on NRL players and their partners. The crackdown comes after footage emerged last week in which families could be seen passing items to each other through their hotel balconies in complete defiance of bio-secure bubble restrictions.
Nine quotes a player’s quarantined wife who declined to be named for fear of repercussions against her husband:
I was changing my baby’s nappy and looked outside the window and there was a drone spying on me. I couldn’t believe it. I can only guess the Queensland government sent them up trying to catch us out.
But that’s not all. The government has also prohibited families from going on their balconies and asked them to bolster their balcony doors with gaffer tape. A proof of the same is to be sent to the Queensland Health government agency.
NRL’s growing rap sheet
Already this season, the NRL has handed out fines to the tune of $305,000 to 13 players for having a barbecue, and a separate two-match ban as well as a fine of $35,000 for a player for meeting a woman outside of his bubble in a hotel room.
As a result, the Australian Rugby League Commission’s chairman Peter V‘landys has stressed that more breaches would not be tolerated:
Anyone who’s breached the bubble and put the game and the income of fellow players at risk will be heavily penalized if the allegations are proven true.
Crackdown with drones “an overkill”?
It’s worth noting though that, originally, families were informed they would be able to move across floors and other parts of the buildings during meal breaks. However, tighter restrictions were announced once the rugby players and their families reached the quarantine hub. As the wife of a player who spotted the spy drone tells Nine:
I understand we have to do the right thing but [using drones] is just over the top. The situation we are in has become a nightmare. There is rotting, smelly rubbish in the hotel hallways, staff are taking photos of us in the lunch room looking for breaches, the food is awful, some of the mums are at breaking point. If we knew this is how it would be before we came, I’m sure many of us would have stayed at home. We have all been tested for COVID and all tested negative so we feel a lot of this is overkill.
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