Canberra are holding onto hope key forwards Josh Papalii and Joseph Tapine can play in Saturday’s NRL clash with North Queensland despite not having the flu shot.
The injury-hit Raiders have lodged paperwork with the NRL seeking an exemption for the pair, who were among several players declining a flu injection when the competition restarted and Queensland government revealed its no jab, no play policy.
If the application is knocked back, it will likely be up to the two players to make the call on whether they have a needle or are ruled out of the trip north to Townsville.
Papalii said in May he had reasons not to have the vaccine, including that his medical status wasn’t the best, but he would not divulge details. Tapine has not spoken publicly about his position.
Regardless, it’s likely Papalii and Tapine will have to be named in the team on Tuesday as the Raiders battle to list 21 fit players for Saturday’s match.
The club had initially planned to rest the pair for their two Queensland trips over the next three weeks, given this year’s hectic schedule.
But the Raiders have been ravaged by injuries among middle forwards. Fellow forward Sia Soliola, who also declined a flu job, is among those on the injured list.
The Raiders could get John Bateman and Curtis Scott back from injury this week, but neither plays in the middle.
If Paplii and Tapine are not available, it’s likely coach Ricky Stuart would have to play Ryan Sutton and Hudson Young in the middle.
Papalii has been in superb form, topping the yardage counts for Raiders in the past fortnight.
And tellingly, Tapine has been next best for the past two weeks.
So far, no players have missed a match due to Queensland’s no job, no play rule.
Canterbury hooker Sione Katoa was immunised earlier this month to face Brisbane in Queensland, after initially being vocal in his stance against it.
Addin Fonua-Blake was also able to play for Manly on Friday night in Townsville, after also initially refusing a flu shot.
The Sea Eagles will not state whether he took the jab or gained medical exemption.
Gold Coast utility Bryce Cartwright was the other high profile case, but he received a medical exemption in May to resume training after his contract became under threat.
Meanwhile, Canberra will likely find out on Monday if fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad will need surgery on a badly dislocated finger that threatens to leave him sidelined.