Manly Sea Eagles prop Addin Fonua-Blake has been condemned for wearing a face mask while talking to the media about potential NRL pay cuts on Tuesday.
The NRL announced round two of the competition will go ahead as planned, despite growing fears of the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking to reporters during a media session at the club’s Narrabeen headquarters on Tuesday, Fonua-Blake expressed his intention to do whatever he can to prevent the virus from spreading to his family. The 24-year-old also donned the face mask while training with his teammates.
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"I just rocked up today with it, a few boys had a laugh but won't be laughing if you get sick,” Fonua-Blake said.
"I don't want to get sick, and I don't want to get anyone else sick if I got it.
“I know this mask doesn’t stop coronavirus, but if someone coughs on me, I’d rather be coughed on this than coughed in my mouth.”
"I'm not scared, I just don't want to catch anything and take it home with me. I've got four young kids of my own and a partner, so I'd hate to catch something.”
Addin Fonua-Blake from Manly says he’s worried about getting sick 🤢 and that to wear a mask 😷 is his decision. pic.twitter.com/AAFCkl3nsj
Manly teammate Jake Trbojevic also admitted the situation was “a bit scary” on Tuesday, but wants the competition to continue if possible.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg admitted on Monday players could face pay cuts if the season is reduced, a decision Fonua-Blake labelled “unfair”.
“If you sign a contract and a contract says you'll be paid X amount, you're owed X amount whether you play or not," Fonua-Blake said.
"It might be a bit unfair on older players that maybe took a pay cut or younger players coming through that aren't on as much money as certain players that have to pay bills and pay rent and stuff like that.
"I feel like if you sign an agreement, the agreement should be met by both parties. If you're fully fit and you're able to play, you should be getting paid.
"The outcome of what's happened is unfortunate, but as long as you're still meeting your requirements within your contract, I reckon you should still be getting what's owed to you."
Addin Fonua-Blake wearing the face mask at trainingSource:News Corp Australia
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Speaking on NRL 360 Tuesday evening, journalist Paul Kent savaged Fonua-Blake for wearing the face mask, accusing the move as a “smarta**” publicity stunt.
“I’m not convinced it was entirely about his own welfare and safety,” Kent said.
“Manly have been pushing back. I think they’ve used this whole pandemic as an opportunity to try and do less and less media. They’ve assured us this isn’t the case, but I know they’ve certainly been doing that.
“That was basically a smarta** way to say they don’t want to do it.
“Someone’s clearly got to talk to the players and tell them the reality of the situation.”
Rugby league reporter James Hooper agreed, arguing the coronavirus epidemic is “no laughing matter”.
“That looked as though maybe they were having a bit of banter behind the scenes,” Hooper said on NRL 360.
“I know we’re being told that’s not the case, but it looks like it’s a joke.”
James Hooper labelled the move a “joke” on TuesdaySource:Getty Images
Kent also ripped into Fonua-Blake for suggesting NRL players should still be paid if the competition is suspended, labeling the Manly player’s comments as “ill-informed”.
“He’s come out today and said, ‘If I’m fit and I’m healthy, and the competition gets suspended, I still should get paid’. That shows a total disconnect from what is happening around the world,” Kent exclaimed.
“Someone at NRL Headquarters, who has a highly-paid media department, should be talking to these guys and actually filling them in on the reality of how the world works.
“Because you don’t sit at home playing PlayStation – nice and safe and fit and healthy – and still expect to get paid. It just doesn’t happen.
“Blokes getting up with their masks on saying ill-informed comments, that have no economical sense whatsoever, should probably be kept away from the camera.”
Manly lost their opening fixture of the 2020 premiership to the Melbourne Storm 18-4 on Sunday. They will next face defending champions the Sydney Roosters at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday.
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