Jason Taumalolo sinking press conference, won’t answer vaccine question, exemption, North Queensland Cowboys
Cowboys superstar Jason Taumalolo gave a “wreckage” press conference, repeatedly refusing to explain his vaccination status ahead of the NRL season.
The North Queensland captain told News Corp this week he had “the green light to play the first round and that’s all that matters”.
But it’s unclear exactly what that means, as anyone entering a major sports stadium in Queensland must be vaccinated, and Queensland Health says it has not requested an exemption.
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Cowboys coach Todd Payten said last week Taumalolo, the club’s highest-paid player, was “compliant” to play in the first round. The NRL has not imposed vaccines for players.
Asked about his status, Taumalolo first told reporters on Tuesday: “My medical information is only because I would like it to be private, so I will no longer answer questions about my medical information.”
Asked then about the club’s supporters, who have to be vaccinated to attend games, and their demands for transparency, Taumalolo said: “I can’t answer that, sorry mate.”
Asked about the impact of his status on his ability to travel abroad and compete in the World Cup, he said: “I haven’t looked that far and at the moment I won’t answer any questions. regarding my medical information.”
Another follow-up, on whether he will be able to play the full season – given vaccination rules across the country – saw him reply: “I will play the NRL season. I’m not going to insist on exemptions and the injections and so on, so whatever I do to my body is my information, but what I know is that I will play the first round and that’s all that matters.
When another reporter tried to get a response from the Cowboys skipper, the club’s media officer cut him off and said: “His beliefs are what they are, and he’s going to say the same thing every time. times because that’s what he strongly believes in, and the club strongly believes in it too.
“You’re going to have to talk to him a few times throughout the year, I think it’s time to show him some respect for the way he’s been treated throughout this situation.”
Taumalolo was widely criticized during the press conference, with questions over what exactly the media manager meant by what the club ‘believes’.
“This media operation was a train wreck,” said journalist Fraser Barton tweeted.
Chris McMahon, Associate Editor of the Townsville Bulletin noted“Absolutely bizarre scenes, being put in a press conference, not answering questions. Taumalolo may have a future in politics – veer off and stay on message. If I were a shareholder, I’d probably want to know where my $1 million a year is going and if it’s a wise investment.
Taumalolo said earlier this week that he contracted Covid during the off-season, but the temporary medical exemptions for those recovering from the virus are only valid for four months, which would not cover him for the NRL season.
The Tonga international said he was “sad” that his ex-teammate John Asiata had his contract torn up by the Bulldogs over his refusal to get vaccinated.
“I haven’t spoken to him about what happened to him off the pitch,” he said.
“I’m sad and it’s sad to see him leave the competition.”