NRL Press Conference
NRL Press Conference

NRL eyes early return after jumping huge hurdle

Players may be allowed to stay at their homes when the season relaunches as the NRL loosens its reliance on holding players in a bubble.

A meeting between Project Apollo members Wayne Pearce, Troy Grant and Graham Annesley and their biosecurity expert on Tuesday gave the NRL more clarity about its return to the field, which is on track for late May.

Part of those discussions included having the players forced into 14 days of solitary confinement in a hotel room, where they would have to avoid contact with everyone including teammates.

But The Daily Telegraph has learnt the NRL is extremely confident it will not have to take such drastic measures.

Instead, the NRL is forging ahead with relaxing the premise of the bubble if the coronavirus infection rate continues to plummet. The Sydney Olympic Park precinct is firming as the most likely venue to host NRL games and house interstate teams and the New Zealand Warriors. While there may still be a central precinct to hold games and training in a bid to minimise exposure to coronavirus, players are unlikely to be locked away from family and the outside world for months.

Project Apollo head Wayne Pearce (centre).
Project Apollo head Wayne Pearce (centre).

 

Instead, the NRL could forge ahead with plans to allow the players to self-isolate like they did before the competition coming to a halt on March 23.

At that point the daily increase in infections was about 23 per cent but that number has dipped significantly to about 2 per cent, allowing the NRL to feel confident a game-wide bubble cutting off the players from the outside world is not needed to return to the field.

Instead of locking the players away, the NRL plans to impose stricter biosecurity measures around training and matches to ensure the players and community are safe.

The NRL announced on Tuesday the likes of Parramatta, Penrith and Newcastle would remain undefeated after ARLC chairman Peter V'landys hosed down fears the first two matches would not be counted in a revamped competition.

V'landys intervened after clubs were left irate by suggestions they could have their first two round points taken away when the NRL competition resumes. The innovation committee had been due to discuss wiping the opening two rounds from the competition ladder.

But V'landys stepped in to quash the suggestions.

ARLC Chairman Peter V’Landys.
ARLC Chairman Peter V’Landys.

 

"I spoke with Wayne Pearce this morning and we both agreed that it's not going to come under consideration," V'landys said.

"The commission has not considered it and it won't be considering it. It's not off the table because it was never on the table.

"This was a proposal put forward from outside the commission."

 

 

The Eels, Panthers, Knights, Broncos, Raiders and Storm are the only undefeated teams.

Project Apollo will meet on Thursday to finalise the competition structure.


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