NRL coronavirus assistance call slammed as all sport suffers

No more touching: Magpie skipper Scott Pendlebury celebrates victory at the SCG.

No more touching: Magpie skipper Scott Pendlebury celebrates victory at the SCG. Photo: Getty

In any normal sporting week, the outrage generated by the head of NRL pleading for what amounts to a government bailout would have dominated headlines and prompted discussion for days.

As virtually everyone outside the NRL bubble can attest, these are not normal times.

Within hours of ARLC chairman Peter V’landys saying it would not take the NRL long to collapse if the season was suspended without financial assistance, sporting and social commentators commentators dismissed the warning with what amounted to a cry of ‘we all have mortgages’.

In the AFL, attention turned to Collingwood skipper Scott Pendlebury, who was tested and cleared of the coronavirus – the footy world holding its breath given the likelihood that a positive diagnosis would bring an immediate end to all AFL matches.

In truth, all sport is in dire financial straits and while playing in empty stadiums is one thing, if whole seasons are delayed or suspended the real damage will come when the lifeblood of broadcast rights is cut off.

NRL player and coach turned commentator Phil Gould was scathing in his assessment of the NRL leadership, tweeting for change at the top and asking where all the money received in the good times had gone.

V’landys did not get much support from the public either, with some pointing to their own financial woes without work and others questioning where NRL banked its money in the first place.

In any case, the NRL’s begging bowl story was almost immediately overwhelmed on Monday morning as the chaos in sport continued to unfold.

The A-League’s Melbourne Victory found itself on the wrong side of the clock when the government’s midnight Sunday travel/isolation bans came in effect.

Players were stuck in Wellington having lost to the New Zealand side 3-0 and although Victory is out of the finals hunt they will have to weigh up a 14 day quarantine before being able to play again.

Phoenix players are in the same boat, but with the club sitting third on the ladder heading towards the finals they will travel to Australia this week to endure the quarantine and hope to push on.

The A-League season will also be condensed with games played on three-day turnarounds. This weekend’s W-League grand final between Melbourne City and Sydney FC will proceed as scheduled but played in empty stadiums.

FFA’s head of leagues Greg O’Rourke said Phoenix and Victory players will not be able to train together during their isolation, but said other clubs will not be affected.

Wellington players celebrate their 3-0 win over Victory. Photo: AAP

“For the other nine teams, we’re looking to have as many games as we can played with three-day turnarounds and have the season completed much quicker than it normally would have been.”

The AFL is also facing tough choices, with a series of phone hook ups and discussions expected to result in major announcements Monday evening or Tuesday

The AFL’s offices in Melbourne’s Docklands were closed to the public on Monday, with only people with appointments admitted.

Earlier in the day the VFL postponed its season amidst intrigue about Magpie skipper Pendlebury who had missed two training sessions ahead of the Magpies season opener against Western Bulldogs on Friday night.

Needless to say any positive test result among an AFL playing group would immediately see all existing contingencies crashing down and – like the positive result of a team member at the Australian Grand Prix – could bring an immediate postponement of the season.

The AFL had already planned to hold all round matches without fans present.

The AFL Players’ Association is set to consult club delegates to address the situation and invite feedback from all 1240 male and female players via a teleconference, AAP reported.

Reigning premiers Richmond will unfurl their 2019 flag in front of empty stands at the MCG when it meets Carlton on Thursday night – presuming the game is not called off.

Tigers captain Trent Cotchin said the cancellation and postponement of sporting competitions around the world “raises an alarm” for the AFL.

He predicted it would be an “eerie” feeling to play in front of no fans.

“For me, first and foremost, the health and safety of our players is absolutely paramount and then that obviously extends to our families and so forth as well,” Richmond skipper Cotchin told SEN on Monday.

“So I would like to think that the decisions that are being made are purely the safest decisions and not based around just getting just a show on for our fans.”

-with AAP

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