Rugby League looks almost certain to be back in our lives from the 28th May, just four weeks away, as the NRL have been given the go-ahead to return to action under strict hygiene rules as the Aussie game comes out of enforced hibernation.
There is still some discussion over the duration of the season, in terms of the number of weeks over which it will be played, but it is almost certain to start over the last weekend of May and likely to culminate in a Grand Final on the 25th October.
Clubs and administrators were due to meet on Friday (tomorrow) as part of ‘Project Apollo’ to arrange the draw for a twenty round competition with the results from the two rounds which were completed prior to the COVID-19 lock down being carried forward into the restructured season.
There is some debate between broadcasters who are pressurising the league for different season durations with Nine being rumoured to prefer a seventeen-week season, while FOX would like to see the twenty rounds played over twenty weeks.
It is understood that a concession has been won from the New Zealand government and Australian border force to allow the New Zealand players and staff to travel to Australia and base themselves there for the duration of the competition (or until circumstances change) as both countries look to emerge from the coronavirus restrictions which have seen them amongst the countries lightest hit by the killer bug.
There is continues speculation about whether the Queensland based sides will make a permanent move to New South Wales enabling all of the games and player monitoring to take part in a more localised area, the Queensland clubs are known to not be too keen but it might end up being a case of ‘needs must’.
One potential to delay the start to the 11th June would be if the New Zealand Warriors players couldn’t gain exemption from the 14 day quarantine rules which would then prevent them from training together when the rest of the clubs return to team training on the 4th May. This is understood to be being currently negotiated with the Australian government who are also keen to see the return of the national sport, albeit with game being played behind closed doors.
A further complication is the threat from some players that they wont return to training until a new pay structure is agreed, many players have taken enforced pay cuts at the time of lock down. Again this is thought to primarily focus on New Zealand Warriors players who will be taking an extended time away from family and friends.
Here at RLFANS.COM we will be keeping a keen eye on developments and in advance of the domestic Super League re-starting, which still looks to be some way off, we will bring you match coverage of some NRL games each week.