The NRL has announced it is introducing a self-isolation program for its players, as it looks to continue the premiership amid the coronavirus pandemic.
- The self-isolation program will restrict players to only “essential interaction” with the general community
- It will take into account advice from biosecurity and pandemic experts
- The NRL will consider locking down all 16 teams in one location during the winter months
The decision was announced this afternoon following an Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) meeting, and had been made following consultation with the clubs and the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA).
“The details of that self-isolation program will be worked out with the clubs and players, taking into account the biosecurity and pandemic experts advice,” ARLC chairman Peter V’landys told a media conference in Sydney.
“We will always abide by that advice. What that basically means [is] there will only be essential interaction with our players with the general community.
“Any non-essential contact will be reduced.”
Pressed on the parameters around the new measures, Mr V’landys said it was a discussion they would now have with the RLPA and clubs.
Some clubs have already set up bunkers at their training headquarters.
“Normal day activities is not self-isolation. Self-isolation means limited social interaction,” Mr V’landys said.
“We’ll go through the details with the players and the clubs in the next few days.”
RLPA general manager Clint Newton said that while the self-isolation program had yet to be presented to his members, he was confident that the group would buy into the proposal.
“It’s about giving them an understanding of what this process looks like, and also what the restrictions [are that] we’ve put on them,” he said.
“By bringing the players along and developing the detail, you’ve got the best chance possible of them coming in and buying into whatever process we have.”
NRL matches may be taken to central location
Mr V’landys said locking down all 16 teams in one location — likely to be in Australia’s north — would be considered during the upcoming winter.
The towns of Calliope and Townsville in Queensland, and Darwin in the Northern Territory, have been widely speculated to be possible destinations.
“We need to be ready and agile for all contingencies, and we are. That includes possibly relocating the players somewhere else in the peak time,” Mr V’landys said.
The NRL said all eight matches in round two — beginning this evening — will go ahead as planned, with the fixtures to be played at empty venues.
Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak
When asked about playing out the entire season, NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said the league would “go as deep and as far” as it needed to in the calendar year.
And while the current State of Origin dates remain in place, the NRL concedes the stadium lockouts mean the series is likely to be moved to a later date.
A decision on the end-of-season Kangaroo tour has also yet to be made.
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