NRL news | St George Illawarra players thought they would get away with party at Paul Vaughan’s house

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St George Illawarra forward Josh McGuire says the Dragons players thought they would get away with a party at Paul Vaughan’s Shellharbour property that breached COVID-19 restrictions.

McGuire was one of 13 players caught up in the drama, that saw the NRL hand out $305,000 worth of fines and one match bans to a dozen players. Vaughan was suspended for eight weeks and subsequently sacked by the club.

Facing the media for the first time since the incident, McGuire said the players didn’t expect the party to cause such drama.

“We can’t sit here and cry foul – we put ourselves into a situation at the time [but] we didn’t think it would escalate to the magnitude it has,” McGuire said.

“We’re very sorry and remorseful. It was a bunch of blokes who made an honest stupid mistake and just didn’t think.

“We did understand [the rules] and can’t sit here and say we didn’t understand. We were in Shellharbour, a long way away from everything that was happening. The decision going to the barbecue everyone made, and at the end of the day we didn’t think it would be a drama and we wouldn’t get caught.”

The arrival of police to investigate prompted varying reactions from the players, McGuire said. Corey Norman famously left his wallet and car with personalised number plates behind, while Jack de Belin is alleged to have been hiding under a bed.

“I stood there,” McGuire said. “Some of the boys were scared. A few of us stood there and talked to police. A few boys didn’t want to hang around. A few of the boys just stayed where they were and a few of the guys came out and saw the police.

“It was a poor decision by us. It’s hard. We’re still quite upset and disappointed. I’m shattered I brought this club into this situation.”

McGuire, who only joined the club this season after stints with Brisbane and North Queensland, said coach Anthony Griffin was understandably furious at the events that took place, having warned the players 24 hours earlier not to celebrate a win over New Zealand with a get-together.

“He didn’t say anything about not drinking, he just said don’t ‘stuff up’ or ‘make mistakes’, and we obviously did,” McGuire explained.

“It’s a poor decision we all have to live with now and have to pay the price for.

“It was probably one of the harder phone calls I’ve had to make to Hook [Griffin].

“He was quite ropeable. I have to earn back that trust and that respect from the group. I’m not shying away from it. I made a poor decision.”

Teammate Blake Lawrie also spoke to the media and expressed remorse for his actions. Like McGuire, he wasn’t expecting the BBQ to cause any trouble.

“It was a get together with a couple of the boys who made a decision,” Lawrie said. “We didn’t think the repercussions were going to be this big. We are truly sorry what has happened to our wider community, club and teammates.

“I thought it was harmless. We were in our own bubble. We can’t do anything about what we’ve done. I can’t wait to prove to our teammates mainly that we are sorry.”

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