Manly Sea Eagles prop Josh Aloiai has become the first NRL player to contract COVID-19, causing his upcoming fight with Paul Gallen to be postponed.
Aloiai, who was set to fight the former Cronulla Sharks great on December 10, called in sick to a promotional photo shoot for the bout on Tuesday.
The Sea Eagles confirmed Aloiai was diagnosed with the virus on Wednesday.
“Josh was not due to return to official team training until mid-December and has had no recent face to face contact with his Manly team-mates,” a club statement read.
“Josh is fully vaccinated and the club is working with the NRL to ensure he follows NSW Health Orders and NRL protocols over the coming weeks.”
It has been reported that Aloiai was training with former Wests Tigers enforcer Joey Leilua, who tested positive to COVID earlier in the week. Leilua was set to fight as part of the undercard.
With Josh Aloiai’s positive covid test the 9/10 December double header featuring Paul Gallen, Andrew Moloney, Harry Garside etc will be postponed. No Limit now hopes to put the event on before xmas.
— Ben Damon (@ben_damon) November 24, 2021
According to Main Event’s Ben Damon, organisers are hopeful of rescheduling the fight before Christmas. However, any postponement is bad news for Leilua, who was set to depart Australia immediately following the bout to begin a stint at English club Featherstone.
Following months of sniping between Aloiai and Gallen, the keenly anticipated showdown was finally locked in earlier this month for two eight-minute rounds.
Promoter Matt Rose told The Age that news of Aloiai’s positive test came as ‘a shock’.
“We’ve had to adapt to this over the past two years and the last time we had to cancel an event was between Jeff Horne and Tim Tszyu,” Rose said.
“Right now, we’re trying to work out how we can try to get the show back on before the year is out. We won’t know those details until early next week.
“We still want this to go ahead with a postponement of some sort before Christmas.”
Aloiai is the first current NRL player known to have caught the virus since the start of the pandemic last year.
He was not yet due back at Manly training, and it’s believed the entire Sea Eagles squad has at least had their first vaccine against the virus.
Less than 15 NRL players are still to have their first shot.
And the NRL is confident that number will be no more than five players, with clubs still weighing up how to best deal with those who refuse the vaccine.
It comes as the AFL had its first case in more than a year earlier this month after Hawthorn’s Finn Maginness tested positive.
A handful of AFLW players have also contracted the virus.
The Sheffield Shield match between NSW and Victoria at the SCG was also postponed for day when allrounder Will Sutherland tested positive.
All tickets purchased for the fight between Aloiai and Gallen will be refunded.