During the match between Wests Tigers and Newcastle Knights with no club officials and a few lucky fans in neighbouring houses at Leichhardt Oval at 4 pm, the AFL announced that their season will be postponed until May 31.
‘Today is a difficult day for the rugby league community, both here at head office and across all of our clubs and players. Our priority is to do everything we can to give our game the best chance for a long and sustainable future’, Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chairman Peter V’landys said.
‘We have briefed all of our clubs this evening and all of our players have now been told. For now, we’ve asked our players not to turn up to training tomorrow while we resolve the situation as best as we can’, he added.
V’landys also said that they can no longer guarantee the safety of the players if they continue to play.
After the AFL announced its suspension, the NRL still carried on with the 6 pm match between Gold Coast Titans and Parramatta Eels at Cbus Super Stadium with no fans but a couple of mannequins.
No less than an hour after Eels won the match, the federal and state government ordered all the pubs, clubs, cinemas and other entertainment venues to close to limit the spread of coronavirus.
‘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 said.
‘And if we can continue to play which is what our desire has been all along, then we will continue to do so’, he added.
Nevertheless, NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian confirmed that their government will not stand in the way if the NRL still decided to continue this year’s season based on current medical advice.
The NRL admitted that it is not easy to keep the competition running, they also said that they are open with any possible options even if a club member is tested positive for coronavirus.
NRL’s governing body also considered relocating the entire competition to Queensland town of Calliope. The NRL spotted an isolated vacant mining facility which can house more than 500 players and officials.
However, their plan to relocate the whole competition in an isolated vacant mining facility did not go well. This is because the Queensland government announced that their border would close on Wednesday midnight.
With all these announcements, the NRL was still determined to push through. According to V’landys, it was too much to keep the players away from their families.
‘They can return (to New Zealand) tomorrow. After tomorrow, they possibly couldn’t return. We had to make a quick decision’, V’landys said.
While the debate is going on, the NRL confirmed that their offices are closed until May 1, with hundreds of staffs from all departments to take annual leave.
With that being said, the league was convinced to suspend the upcoming matches to make sure the safety of the players.
‘Unfortunately, that has taken a dramatic turn today. Our pandemic expert and our biosecurity expert have said due to the rapid rate of infection, that we can no longer guarantee the safety of our players to continue to play’, V’landys stated.
It was reported that more than $13 million worth of broadcasting revenue could be lost for every round not played. In an attempt to finish the season, the NRL is willing to resume on December 20.