The 13 St George Illawarra Dragons' players who attended a house party on Saturday evening have been hit with fines totalling $305,000, and suspensions of 20 matches.
In one of the biggest penalties handed down in NRL history, the COVID and New South Wales health order breach will potentially cost the Dragons a spot in the top eight as they fight to put a team on the field over the coming weeks.
An NRL statement released late on Monday afternoon stated a breach notice has been issued to 13 Dragons players who were in attendance at a party hosted by prop Paul Vaughan on Saturday evening.
"The NRL alleges that player Paul Vaughan invited players to a gathering at his home on Saturday 3 July which was attended by 12 teammates, in breach of NSW Public Health Orders and the Game’s biosecurity protocols. It’s alleged a number of players hid or fled the residence when NSW Police attended the home after complaints from neighbours," the statement said.
"It’s also alleged that a number of players gave or were involved in giving misleading information about the event during the NRL’s investigation into the breaches and that some of the players conspired to withhold key information from the NRL."
This is Paul Vaughan's second offence under the biosecurity rules after attending a cafe last year and being fined by the NRL.
This time around, the NRL have decided to suspend Paul Vaughan for eight matches, effectively ending his season. The earliest the prop could now return is the first week of the finals.
He has also been slugged with a $50,000 fine. The statement said Vaughan withheld key information from the NRL integrity unit.
"The Breach Notice issued to Vaughan, who has previously been sanctioned by the NRL for breaches of the biosecurity rules in 2020 and who organised and hosted the gathering, proposes an 8 match suspension and a fine of $50,000," the statement said.
"This takes into account Vaughan withholding key information from the Integrity Unit."
The other 12 players involved - Daniel Alvaro, Gerard Beale Jack Bird, Jack De Belin, Matt Dufty, Kaide Ellis, Tyrell Fuimaono, Josh Kerr, Blake Lawrie, Zac Lomax, Josh McGuire and Corey Norman - have all been suspended for one match and fined based on their contracted salary and past indiscretions.
The players will be able to serve their suspension over a period of between the next two and four games, to allow the Dragons to have enough players to put a team on the field each week. It will mean the Dragons are likely to be without at least three players per week, depending on how quickly the club wish to serve the penalties.
Their fines are as follows:
Corey Norman - $50,000
Jack De Belin - $42,000
Zac Lomax - $31,000
Jack Bird - $25,000
Matt Dufty - $23,000
Blake Lawrie - $20,000
Josh Kerr - $18,000
Daniel Alvaro - $15,000
Tyrell Fuimaono - $12,000
Josh McGuire - $12,000
Kaide Ellis - $5,000
Gerard Beale - $2,000
The Dragons players involved will have five business days to respond to the breach notices.