NRL stars Latrell Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr are in hot water after a camping trip on Mitchell’s property on the mid-north coast of NSW turned into firearms offences and a future court date.
Photos and videos of Mitchell, Addo-Carr and Knights player Tyronne Robert-Davis were uploaded to Instagram over the weekend displaying a group of men camping, riding motorbikes and shooting—breaching existing NSW COVID-19 regulations by gathering in a large group.
After investigation by NSW Police, Addo-Carr, 24, has been charged with using an unauthorised firearm. Mitchell, 22, has also been charged with giving a firearm to a person without a permit and has had his firearms licence revoked.
“Following extensive inquiries, a 22-year-old man attended Taree Police Station about 11.15am today (Tuesday 28 April 2020),” read a statement from NSW Police.
“He has been issued with a Future Court Attendance Notice for the offence of give firearm to person not authorised by licence/permit.
“His firearms licence was suspended, and a number of firearms were seized by police.
“A 24-year-old man has also been issued with a Future Court Attendance Notice for the offence of use unauthorised firearm.”
The Melbourne Storm winger and South Sydney Rabbitohs fullback are now due to appear at Taree Local Court on August 4.
The pair were earlier found in breach of NSW COVID-19 safety protocols and have been fined $1,000 each.
Currently, NSW guidelines state people may only leave the house for ‘essential’ activities. NIT understands this is not the first instance of Addo-Carr breaching these guidelines.
Just hours before the pair were charged by NSW Police on Tuesday, the NRL also fined Mitchell and Addo-Carr $50,000 each and Davis $10,000. Penrith Panthers halfback Nathan Cleary was also charged $10,000 by the NRL for a separate COVID-19 regulation breach.
The NRL issued the players breach notices for “bringing the game into disrepute” including the fines and a one-match ban, to be suspended for the remainder of the season.
“The players have a responsibility to the game and community. It is important that, in these challenging times, we all … work together to combat COVID-19 and compliance with public health orders is a critical requirement,” said Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) Chair Peter V’landys.
NRL Acting CEO Andrew Abdo said players who don’t comply with NRL and community protocols will face sanctions.
“The sanctions proposed today are stronger than fines which can be imposed by authorities because we hold our players to a higher standard and they must set a higher standard for the community.”
On Monday, Addo-Carr and Mitchell issued public apologies via Instagram.
Mitchell called the weekend a ‘slip-up’, saying both players had the intention of connecting to culture and supporting Addo-Carr’s cousins through a rough period.
“We’re not being selfish; I couldn’t turn down the brothers in a time of need. On behalf of me and Foxy [Addo-Carr] and all my mob we do apologise,” he said.
Mitchell later took to Instagram to reshare support from fans, with many questioning the pair’s rights on private property.
Addo-Carr also posted an apology to his Instagram, however, later deleted the post along with several of his previous posts and made edits to his profile picture and bio.
In the now removed video, Addo-Carr relayed a similar response to Mitchell.
“Firstly, I’d like to apologise for my actions this weekend, nothing was intentional or deliberate,” he said.
“A couple of family members of mine were going through a really tough time at the moment, and I got in contact with Latrell to go out to his private property and try to connect to the culture again and try to put a smile on their faces and have a bit of fun as well.
“I can’t wait to go out there and finally play some footy, and like I said before I am really sorry from the bottom of my heart. Thanks guys.”
The NRL responded to the players’ regulation breach, issuing a statement on Monday which described their behaviour as a “disappointing and an unacceptable breach of health orders”.
“Our players are role models and we expect them to lead by example during this pandemic,” the statement read.
“On face value, the image in today’s media is both disappointing and an unacceptable breach of health orders.”
The Rabbitohs and Storm also issued written statements in support of the authorities.
Both players are now also facing the possible loss of their Test spots from the national team.
“We’ve got a values system that is really important for how we do things,” Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga told Fox League.
“One of those things is about being good role models.
“When you put on the green and gold jersey, you accept that responsibility to be a leader in our game and in the community.”
“They have shown they can’t be trusted, for me, it makes me look at whether they are deserving of a green and gold jersey.”
Phil Gould, rugby league broadcaster and former player and coach, voiced his disappointment in the players on 2GB, noting their behaviour had “let the code down”.
“What they’ve done is horribly irresponsible, it might seem like a harsh penalty, and that was uncalled for, particularly when our game is trying to convince government that we can restart.”
Journalist and former rugby league player Paul Kent also questioned the apologies from Mitchell and Addo-Carr on Fox League, calling the “culture card” a “cop out”.
“Saying a couple of blokes were struggling and wanted to get back to culture, that’s just an excuse. In the fair dinkum states, everybody is doing it a little bit tough to different degrees,” Kent said.
“We’re all going through a bit, as far as the culture goes. I get going for a camp, but riding motorbikes and shooting guns—I don’t think [that] is what Aboriginal people regard as their culture.
Whilst many have criticised the pair’s behaviour, many Indigenous public figures are standing behind them.
Former Rabbitoh and mental health advocate, Joe Williams took to Twitter to note the double standard around issues in the NRL:
Calling for #NRL players to be stood down for the year for breaking social distancing restrictions;
Is sending a VERY dangerous msg when we allow incidents such as DV, sexual misconduct, simulation of sex with animals, physical assault, alcohol & drug abuse in our game…
— Joe Williams – TEW (@joewilliams_tew) April 28, 2020
Alec Doomadgee, Waanyi, Garawa and Gangalidda actor and producer, also took to Twitter, writing:
Yawn ????……keep moving nothing to see here!
But gee these blackfellas around a campfire ???? it must be an uprising!! Quick shut them down! pic.twitter.com/z8G9hNSneF
— Alec Doomadgee (@alecdoomadgee) April 27, 2020
Since the police charges have come to light, the NRL has indicated there may be further sanctions in response to the offences.
By Rachael Knowles