Canterbury have parted ways with forward John Asiata after the 28-year-old’s one-year contract was torn up by the NRL club for refusing to be vaccinated.
Asiata signed with the Bulldogs for the 2022 season after a stint with the Brisbane Broncos, but was handed a termination notice last month with the club requiring all players to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The NRL does not have a mandate in place for players to be fully vaccinated unlike the AFL, but Canterbury have been firm on their stance.
“The Bulldogs and John Asiata have agreed to part ways by mutual consent,” the club said in a statement.
“Asiata signed with the club this season but had yet to train with the squad.
“The Bulldogs wish John and his family all the best for the future.”
Rugby League Players Association CEO Clint Newton said they’d continue to support Asiata and all players in the current circumstances.
“Over the past few months the RLPA have worked proactively with clubs, including Canterbury, to work through some of the issues associated with this space,” he told AAP.
“Particularly developing a framework that ultimately provides a decision making process and the best options to help guide what we’d like to think, given the circumstances, positive outcomes for players and clubs.
“We’ll obviously continue to support John, all players and their respective families. Particularly in John’s situation where he focuses on what’s next for him and his family.”
Canterbury football manager Phil Gould said last month he was “hoping” Asiata would change his mind but would explore other options should he decide not to roll up his sleeves.
The NRL estimated last month around 20-24 players were yet to be vaccinated.
CEO Andrew Abdo was forced to defend the governing body’s policy, saying he didn’t think there was “anything soft” about their rules.
“We want people to have the freedom of choice, which I think is important,” Abdo said.
“But we are putting health at the forefront of our policy which is why we believe in vaccination, we want everyone to get vaccinated.”
Asiata played 139 NRL games, mainly with the North Queensland Cowboys where he won a premiership in 2015.
The 28-year-old signed with the Broncos in 2021 but only managed 10 games for the club.