'Don’t dare burst our $200m bubble'
Peter V'landys has blasted super coach Wayne Bennett and Test forward Paul Vaughan by warning their bio security breaches could set the game back a decade.
The furious ARLC commission chairman doubled-down on any other coach, player or staff member who breaks rank by stepping outside the code's bubble restrictions, declaring another breach could crush the code to the tune of more than $200 million in losses.
South Sydney coach Bennett and St George-Illawarra's Vaughan have both been stood down for 14 days after breaking the NRL's COVID-19 biosecurity protocols.
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The NRL said the decision was made to put Bennett and Vaughan on a 14-day 'COVID hold' after they contravened NRL biosecurity protocols by dining separately at restaurants on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.
Bennett and Vaughan must isolate from their respective squads for two weeks and test negative to COVID-19 at the conclusion of the COVID-hold before returning to their squads.
V'landys said he was dumbfounded by the pair's lack of comprehension for how their actions had put the entire competition both now and into the future - and the financial livelihood of every player, coach and staff member - at risk.
The Commission's most recent estimates of being forced to stop a full season stands at $400 million.
With half of the 2020 season completed, a loss in the vicinity of $200 million would still be viewed as a financial disaster.
"It doesn't matter who they are, they've got the protocols to follow and they should be following them," V'landys said,
"Not only are they affecting their incomes for this year and the year after, they're affecting their incomes for the next 10-years.
"It's a wake-up call to them.
"If you make one mistake, this is what happens.
"If you look at the person at the Crossroads Hotel, it was one guy who was infected and 400 ended up being affected by it.
"These players, coaches and officials have a great responsibility for the game and they should be doing the right thing.
"Because they're risking not only the income of this generation, they're risking the next generation as well, because it will take years to overcome a financial effect like this if we stop (the competition).
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"It doesn't matter who they are, they've got the protocols to follow and they should be following them. "
Bennett confirmed he had lunch with his partner on Wednesday at the popular Leichhardt Italian restaurant Grappa.
The South Sydney coach is supposed to be involved in tonight's grudge match against his former club the Brisbane Broncos and the man who replaced him - Anthony Seibold.
Instead, Bennett's assistant, Jason Demetriou, will take the reins, leaving the 70-year-old to watch the clash from his living room.
Bennett said Demetriou is up to the task of coaching the Rabbitohs if he receives formal notification from the NRL later Friday.
"Of course he is, he will be the head coach in 12 months, so he is ready for the moment," Bennett said.
News Corp broke the news of Bennett's prohibited luncheon after a patron at the restaurant contacted News Corp to reveal the veteran coach was there.
And a further twist NSW Health COVID-19 inspectors also spotted the super coach seated at Grappa on Wednesday.
In charge of performing routine inspections of cafes and restaurants in the area and aware Bennett is bound by bubble restrictions, the two health officers were alarmed to see the Souths coach, making a point of questioning his presence to Grappa management.
Bennett said confusion over the code's recent changes to COVID guidelines left him in breach of the protocols.
"I went to lunch at Grappa," he said.
"There weren't many people there at all. I was isolated, I had something to eat there with my partner and we were away from everybody, we had lunch and I left.
"If it was a breach, I wouldn't have done it."
Asked if he or NRL players regularly breaches the rules without realising it, he said: "Being candid with you, I'm sure we haven't been perfect, but we do comply across the board. To think we are perfect, it wouldn't be the fact.
"There have been other times (he has gone out), I don't live in restaurants, I went (to Grappa) with someone I live with.
"I have gone to the kebab shop to get a kebab so we are getting a bit small-minded.
"I wouldn't have done it if I thought I did something wrong."
Vaughan was forced to miss Thursday night's clash with the Roosters and will also sit out the Dragons clash with Parramatta next weekend.
"I am very remorseful for the reckless and selfish decision I have made," Vaughan said via a club statement.
"Everyone within the Dragons' bubble, including myself, are well aware of the protocols in place.
"I'm sorry for the harm my actions have caused to the club and my teammates."
Originally published as PVL slams Bennett: Don't dare burst our $200m bubble