Pandemic in sport as ODI series cancelled, Warriors NRL season in doubt

No handshakes: New Zealand and Australian cricketers greet each other after their match at the MCG.

No handshakes: New Zealand and Australian cricketers greet each other after their match at the MCG. Photo: Getty

Trans Tasman sporting contests are set to be put on hold with the New Zealand travel bans prematurely ending cricket’s ODI series and the nation’s NRL and A-League teams unlikely to be taking the field from next week.

As sport continued to reel from the impact of the pandemic sweeping the world, soccer’s Matildas also saw friendlies against USA and Canada cancelled.

A New Zealand cricket spokesman told AAP that the Black Caps would not be able to participate in the two remaining Chappell-Hadlee fixtures, having lost to Australia at the SCG in the first match on Friday night.

“Arrangements are at this moment being made to fly the bulk of the squad home this evening.”

The teams were meant to play three Twenty20s against each other in New Zealand, starting from March 24, but those matches have also been called off.

“NZC believes both these series can be replayed in their entirety at a later and more appropriate date,” the spokesman said.

The immediate status of the NRL season is also in doubt, with the Warriors, who lost their opening round match to the Newcastle Knights, needing to decide if players head home before Sunday’s start of the travel restrictions.

The Warriors are in a bind. Photo: Getty

The Warriors’ round-two clash with Canberra – part of a double-header with Super Rugby – at Eden Park is in grave doubt unless the club decides to keep the squad in Australia until travel bans are lifted.

The Canberra fixture was also to see a double header with Super Rugby teams the Blues and Brumbies, but it is likely that competition is also unlikely to proceed in the short term.

The Dunedin-based Highlanders are in Buenos Aires preparing for Sunday morning’s game with the Jaguares and will not be back in time to avoid the mandatory self-isolation.

Wellington Phoenix has said it would be “impossible” to host A-League matches in New Zealand under strict restrictions set to be imposed on travellers from Australia.

While Sunday’s clash between Phoenix and Melbourne Victory at Sky Stadium is set to go ahead, the Wellington-based club said while the restrictions are in place, it cannot hold future matches at home.

“As it stands, it will be impossible for any future Hyundai A-League Season 2019/20 games to be held in New Zealand, pending another Government review in 16 days,” a Phoenix statement said.

Next weekend’s A-League fixtures were already set to be played behind closed doors despite the league playing matches in front of fans on Saturday.

Earlier, North Queensland captain Michael Morgan called on the NRL to follow the lead of the NBA and postpone the season.

“I don’t really like it, to be honest; that would be my preference – to postpone it,” Morgan said after the Cowboys’ round-one loss on Friday to Brisbane.

“You look at the NBA and the big sports, how they’re doing it. If they really want to stop it (the virus spreading), that’s probably the better way to go.

No one’s scared or anything like that. But we do a fair bit of travelling so, if it’s genuine about stopping it getting into the game, then it’s not ideal that we’re travelling every second week.”

Football Federation Australia (FFA) on Saturday  confirmed that the warm-up between the Matildas and world No.8 Canada, scheduled for April 14 in Vancouver, had been cancelled.

FFA and Canada Soccer have been in regular discussions regarding the fixture, and in light of developments in both Australia and Canada over the past days, the decision has been made to cancel the game.

The Matildas will not be mixing it with fans or other players for a while. Photo: AAP 

It’s another setback for coach Ante Milicic’s Olympics preparations after the match against world champion USA on April 10 in Utah was scrapped earlier this week.

The Matildas were building to a Tokyo campaign, although as the pandemic spreads the July Olympics could also fall victim to travel restrictions.

The Australian Formula One Grand Prix was called off on Friday, while the AFL is holding all its matches behind closed doors.

The NBL’s grand final series between Sydney and Perth will continue, with game three on Sunday to be held without spectators.

Major sports around the world, including the NBA and EPL, have already postponed their seasons because of coronavirus.

-with AAP 


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