NRL plans to press on through pandemic

The NRL aims to forge on with the 2020 premiership, also planning a host of contingencies, even after major rival AFL called a halt in the face of increasing coronavirus pandemic restrictions.

As the AFL suspended its men’s competition and abandoned the women’s finals series on Sunday, the NRL was confident new federal government advice against “non-essential” travel wouldn’t affect them due to their use of chartered planes.

The NRL believes it is significantly different to the AFL in that the majority of its teams are based in NSW and Queensland, rather than all over the country, and it will be able to keep playing at least until the government or health officials tell them to stop.


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They are concerned by the “catastrophic” financial impact any stop in play will have and acknowledge they may have to rearrange their season at any moment.

The NSW and Victorian governments announced on Sunday that they will pursue a partial shutdown of non-essential services over the next 48 hours.

There was also a national cabinet meeting scheduled for Sunday night, where further limitations could be implemented.

Regardless, ARLC chairman Peter V’landys was confident the NRL would find a way to complete the 25-round season and finals with the league willing to play until as late as December 20.

“We are prepared for the worst, and we have looked at every contingency. We’re ready for whatever they throw at us,” V’landys told Triple M on Sunday.

“We’ve got a four-week window that we can work with during State Of Origin.

“There is a bye round and a (split) round, and we can always extend the season.

“It just really depends when we have to pull the lever to suspend the season.

“The longer we can go the better it is.”

The NRL would be staring at a loss of up to $500 million if this year’s campaign is cancelled, with clubs facing dire financial peril.

In turn, the NRL has had assurances from biosecurity and pandemic consultants that it could keep some teams playing if a player tests positive to the virus, and have other sides make up matches later.

The option could of a string of Magic Round-style weekends is still on the table, where players are locked into one region together to avoid travel.

“There is a whiteboard at NRL head office full of contingencies and how we deal with these contingencies,” V’landys said.

“Even a complete lockdown we have a strategy for that.

“We have been proactive the whole way through and will continue to do so.”

V’landys also said conversations had begun around whether players would have to take pay cuts, as per the collective bargaining agreement if significant revenue is lost.

Meanwhile, both the NRL and players’ union plan to meet again on Monday to work towards finalising self-isolation requirements for players in a bid to protect the sport from the virus if the competition continues.

Players have been urged to exercise common sense while they are away from training and games.

V’landys stated on Sunday players would attract heavy penalties if they broke the measures, however, AAP understands that could be met with resistance from the union.

© AAP 2020

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