MELBOURNE: Australian rugby league internationals Latrell Mitchell and Josh Addo-Carr have apologised for breaching social distancing rules by going camping on Mitchell's farm in rural New South Wales (NSW) state.
With the National Rugby League (NRL) season suspended due to the coronavirus, the pair camped with Newcastle Knights player Tyronne Roberts-Davis and family members near Taree on NSW's mid-north coast.
Melbourne Storm winger Addo-Carr posted photos of the trip on social media, including one with the Aboriginal stars gathered by a campfire in a group of 12 people.
He later deleted them.
Both South Sydney Rabbitohs centre Mitchell and Addo-Carr apologised in a video posted on social media on Monday.
"Firstly I'd like to apologise for my actions this weekend. Nothing was intentional or deliberate," Addo-Carr said.
"A couple of family members of mine are going through a tough time at the moment.
"I got in contact with Latrell to go out to his private property to connect with our culture again and try and put a smile on their faces and have a bit of fun as well."
Mitchell said Addo-Carr had reached out to him because he wanted "to get away to the bush and make sure they're getting culturally connected again."
"I wasn't here to break any rules or hurt anyone," added the 22-year-old.
"We're not being selfish, I couldn't turn down the brothers in their time of need. On behalf of Foxy (Addo-Carr) and all my mob we do apologise."
NSW Police said in a statement they had fined three people on the camping trip AUS$1,000 (US$646) and were investigating other possible offences, including "potential breaches of the Firearms Act."
Addo-Carr was seen using a gun in one of the videos posted on social media.
Australia, which has recorded more than 6,700 COVID-19 cases and 83 deaths, has ordered people to stay home with a few exceptions including trips to work or school, buying essential supplies and exercise.
The players face further sanctions from their clubs and the NRL, which said it was investigating the matter.
The lockdown breach has embarrassed the NRL which is trying to build trust with authorities before attempting to restart the competition on May 28.
The season was suspended in March after two rounds due to travel restrictions aimed at containing the virus.
"Our players are role models and we expect them to lead by example during this pandemic," the NRL said in a statement.
"On face value, today's matter is unacceptable and we support the government in any action they believe necessary."
(Reporting by Ian Ransom; editing by Richard Pullin and Christian Schmollinger)