NRL determined to play on, but borders are closing

Fans cheer the Tigers from a property overlooking Leichhardt Oval during the match between the Wests Tigers and the Newcastle Knights.

Fans cheer the Tigers from a property overlooking Leichhardt Oval during the match between the Wests Tigers and the Newcastle Knights. Photo: AAP

The NRL is taking fresh advice from federal and state governments and health experts as it strives to continue the 2020 season amid the mounting coronavirus crisis.

With the NRL facing its greatest challenge and potential severe financial hardship, the governing Australian Rugby League Commission is desperate not to follow major rival AFL in suspending competition.

“Our circumstances are a little different to the AFL, although in saying that we are going to take advice today from both federal and state government, and obviously our health experts,” NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg told Triple M.

“And if we can continue to play, which is what our desire has been all along, then we will continue to do so.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed her government will not stand in the way of the NRL’s push to continue the competition based on current medical advice.

However, plans to push on with the season have been further complicated by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s announcement that Queensland’s borders will be closed to the rest of the country.

It throws into doubt the NRL’s alternative plans to take all 16 teams to a central location in northern Queensland or continue to charter flights for travelling clubs all over Australia’s eastern states.

Earlier on Monday, Greenberg said he was confident the NRL could complete the NRL season should the mounting virus crisis force the code to suspend games.

“We’re very confident we could get the games on again but there’s a lot of unknowns on when that would come about,” Greenberg said.

We’ve been confident all the way through that we can get through this difficult period and that means playing the games.

“If that means we have to go well into November and December, then so be it.”

Greenberg said the NRL had previously been encouraged by governments to keep playing to maintain a sense of normality for the Australian public but he recognised it could come in for mounting criticism at a time when the community faced increased restrictions and hardship.

“In times of great difficulty, particularly for communities, one of the last pieces that they can hold on to is live sport and having some interaction over the weekend, and there’s not much left, to be frank, in this point of time,” he said.

“So if we can keep our game alive then I think that has a variety of positives in it. But we are obviously realists, we know we’re going to get touched up by some parts of the community.”

The federal government on Sunday announced the shutdown of social meeting places, including pubs and clubs as well as restrictions on restaurants and cafes.

It adds to the growing anxiety about the future of jobs and livelihoods but Greenberg is confident the NRL’s determination to continue playing has more positives than negative backlash from the community.

“I think that in community standards the virus is going to continue to get more difficult to combat so I think as a community and as a country it’s going to get more difficult,” he said.

“What that means for us I’m not sure … what I said last week still stands: 2020 won’t be a straight line we are going to have some bumps in the road and I think we are going to get stopped occasionally.”


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