Eels youngster in strife over post-game hugs

Parramatta Eels debutant Stefano Utoikamanu is in hot water after an apparent breach of the NRL’s COVID-19 protocols after his side’s win over the Newcastle Knights.

Following the match, Utoikamanu headed towards the crowd in attendance and shared a few embraces with fans in the stands, before being quickly escorted away by an Eels staffer.

Despite rules being relaxed by the NRL in recent weeks, there still remain strict biosecurity rules over players interacting with members of the public.

It remains to be seen whether the 20-year-old is handed a suspension by the NRL for the incident.

Stefano Utoikamanu greets fans and has close physical contact with them after the Eels win (Fox League)

“As always wee will be guided by the advice of our medical experts,” NRL head of football Graham Annesley told Fox League.

“We will then be in a position to advise the club and the player of any further action or protocol implications.”

Eels coach Brad Arthur was unsure of whether his player would be suspended as a result of the breach, but said he would support him regardless.

“I didn’t see it. But he’s a kid, making his debut. I changed the winger to get him on there and get him a carry,” Arthur said in his post-match press conference.

“I’m not sure what happens, I don’t make the rules.

The youngster was soon pulled away by an Eels staffer who appeared to notice the apparent breach (Fox League)

“We’ll have to see what happens. I’m not sure what happens, I don’t make the rules. We’ll have to see what happens. I’m not going to hold it against him.”

While Utoikamanu is likely to face a sanction from the league for the incident, NRL great Braith Anasta offered his sympathy towards the youngster.

“This is hard. He’s making his debut and it’s one of the proudest moments of his life,” he told Fox League.

“His family and friends are there with him and they want to share this special moment.

“I know it’s the rules and he’s probably going to get penalised for it.”

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