Melbourne Storm Training Session
SUNSHINE COAST, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 19: Nelson Asofa-Solomona is seen during a Melbourne Storm NRL training session at Sunshine Coast Stadium on October 19, 2020 in Sunshine Coast, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Melbourne Storm forward Nelson Asofa-Solomona is reportedly close to signing on the dotted line for a move to Japanese rugby union.

Asofa-Solomona has been unable to train with the Melbourne Storm since the club went back for pre-season, owing to his stance on vaccination for the COVID-19 global pandemic.

While New South Wales have removed restrictions on unvaccinated individuals in society, those restrictions still remain in other parts of the country, including Victoria.

Under Victorian government rules, unvaccinated individuals are unable to enjoy the same freedoms afforded to those who are vaccinated, and that includes being able to train or play matches in stadiums.

While the AFL - who house more than half of the competition's teams in Victoria - mandated vaccination against COVID-19 for all players and staff, the NRL, who house most of their teams in New South Wales, refused to make the same decision.

Despite that, more than 98 per cent of players are now vaccinated with only a handful of hold outs. NRL clubs are also reportedly free to dock pay and eventually terminate players who refuse to become vaccinated, given they will face restrictions and the inability to play interstate games given travel requirements.

The Canterbury Bulldogs were the first team to take decisive action, parting ways with John Asiata in December.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 27: John Asiata of the Broncos takes on the defence during the round 12 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the Melbourne Storm at Suncorp Stadium, on May 27, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

According to Fox Sports though, the Storm are set to have the somewhat tricky decision taken out of their hands at the end of 2022, with Asofa-Solomona reportedly set to sign on with the Panasonic Wild Knights in Japan, coached by former Wallabies boss Robbie Deans.

Given 2023 is the touted time of Asofa-Solomona's arrival according to the report, it's still unclear exactly how he will proceed with the Melbourne Storm during 2022.

According to the report, Japan has relaxed all restrictions against unvaccinated individuals, meaning Asofa-Solomona would be free to sign a contract in the country.

It's understood Rugby Australia are also keeping a close eye on the situation, although his vaccination stance would likely stop them from making an offer for the time being.

β€˜It’s not mandated here. We just have really strict protocols in place,” one Wallaby told the publication, who is currently playing in the League One competition.

Asofa-Solomona isn't a stranger to rugby union, having played as a teenager in New Zealand before being signed by the Melbourne Storm as a 15-year-old.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. If he finds himself in OS Union good luck to him but surely the Wallabies have more self respect than to want an openly Kiwi player in the team.

  2. I suspect someone asked Rugby Australia for a comment, and because no-one had anything to say (and probably knew nothing about it), they simply said: “We’re keeping a close eye on this”.

    Coastar is right. Nelson is a kiwi by birth and attitude, and isn’t likely to want to play Union for Australia, unless he is a complete whore – doing anything for the money. His history in the NRL suggests he is just the opposite. If he was just after money, he’d have got the three free jabs.

    As for when he should move to Japanese Rugby, I’d suggest he ought to bail out ASAP rather than sitting out the season. Having said that, the Japanese season started last week, so maybe there is no time (or salary cap space, or spare squad slots) to allow him to join a club for this season. If think if he can go, he should. Assimilate the culture, train with a team even if he can’t play, and make sure he is happy with his decision.

  3. Harry, there’s a spot in Fergo’s old team. πŸ™‚
    Jonah Lomu 2.0 only 10kg heavier and 10km/h slower…

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