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Coronavirus obstacles clearing for NRL to resume season on May 28 as Queensland agrees to return


Queensland has become the first state to provide approval for NRL players to train ahead the planned season return on May 28.

It follows Prime Minister Scott Morrison declaring he anticipates approval to be granted by the Australian Border Force for the New Zealand Warriors to be allowed entry to Australia.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she was as “keen as anyone else to see the NRL return, and I meant it”.

“The only condition was that it did not put our excellent work containing the spread of COVID-19 at risk and the Chief Health Officer advises that the NRL plan is workable,” she said.

Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys expressed his appreciation to the Queensland Government following its decision.

He said he had provided Ms Palaszczuk assurances the players would respect the “game’s stringent biosecurity protocols”.

“We are implementing the toughest of health and safety protocols for our players and staff to protect their health, and that of the community,” V’landys said in a statement.

“I have stressed the importance of this with our players and staff and they understand that for the future of our game, they will be expected to adhere to higher standards than the general public.

“We will not let the Premier, or Queensland, down.”

The Prime Minister said the decision to allow the New Zealand Warriors into Australia was up to the states and Australian Border Force (ABF), not National Cabinet.

Speaking after a meeting of the state and territory leaders on Friday, Mr Morrison said Cabinet did not give any authority to allow the club to enter Australia for the season.

“The National Cabinet has not provided that endorsement and nor is it for the National Cabinet to do that,” he said.

“The individual jurisdictions will ultimately provide any of the clearances that are necessary on a health basis to deal with any of the major codes.”

Mr Morrison subsequently told 2GB radio he hoped that ABF processing of the exemption would not take “too much longer.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said on Friday evening that the application was “still under consideration”.

The NRL plans to restart its competition on May 28, but the Warriors have said they would need to be in Australia by Sunday to be able to take part in the competition.

Mr Morrison said while he looked forward to NRL’s return, it would be “some time” before matches would be played in front of crowds.

Negotiations over players’ pay and lockdown restrictions escalate

The Warriors’ entry, if it occurs, will be a major milestone in the path to resumption of the NRL.

But disputes around player pay and training timetables need to be resolved before players return to the field.

The ABC understands players are yet to accept a pay deal that would mean they receive 80 per cent of their previous income.

There are also concerns over the health and welfare of the players as they face strict lockdown in order to reduce the chance of anyone catching the virus.

It means a planned return to training on Tuesday may be delayed, but parties were still working to resume on May 28.

Border Force to let Warriors know about travel exemption

Mr Morrison noted that the authority to provide the Warriors with an exemption to current travel restrictions that only allow Australian citizens and permanent residents to enter the country lay with ABF.

The Prime Minister said when the ABF had made a decision it would let the team and the NRL know.

Mr Morrison said the national panel of medical experts would be advising all states and territories considering proposals from the NRL and other sporting codes.

“The panel will provide advice … about the decisions they would need to make regarding the proposals being put forward by those codes,” he said.

“Ultimately those decisions will be made in those states but at least they’ll be doing so on the basis of a set of consistent medical advice.”

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