The NRL has announced it will suspend the season two rounds in as the league executives ran out of options amid the coronavirus crisis.
It comes a day after the AFL called a halt the to its competition with the NRL being heavily criticised for attempting to keep the game going.
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But with Australian states closing their borders, it appeared all the options to stay on the park were extinguished with the NRL closing its head office and placing staff on annual leave until May 1.
ARL commission chairman Peter V’landys and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg fronted media after 6pm on Monday to announce the suspension as the coronavirus crisis took a dramatic enough turn to sideline the game.
“As we said from the outset, the paramount consideration in our decision making process has always been the safety and health of our players,” V’landy’s said.
“Unfortunately that’s taken a dramatic turn today. Our pandemic expert and biosecurity expert, have said due to the rapid rate of infection, we can no longer guarantee the safety of our players to continue to play.
“Accordingly we are suspending the season. We aren’t going to put a time period to the suspension, we are going to look at every available option to us to recommence the season … every option is still on the table.”
Peter V’landys and Todd Greenberg faced the music.Source:AAP
Currently there is no time frame on a return to play, but V’landys stressed a return will happen on the back of advice from experts, “not hysteria and opinions”.
He also suggested it was which will be more difficult with the likes of the New Zealand Warriors needing to pass two weeks of quarantine when returning to New Zealand and arriving back in Australia upon recommencement of the season.
Speaking on Fox League’s NRL 360, V’landys said the closure of the Queensland borders were a key to stopping the season, as the league was looking to take all teams north.
“All options are still on the table, we are going look at all different scenarios,” he said. “Naturally, our prime objective now is to get the game back on as quickly as possible, that’s why we’ve left the window open. But I must stress, the health of our players will be foremost in our decision. Unless we can have minimal risk or no risk to the health of our players, that option will be taken off the table.”
V’landys said it was a “crisis” with all the clubs meeting at 9am on Tuesday.
He said the NRL will be there for every club to try and keep them alive but he admitted he wanted to keep a product on the field.
Fans went to great lengths to get a glimpse of the NRL last weekend.Source:AAP
Speaking on NRL Tonight on Fox Sports News, Brisbane Broncos great Corey Parker said it was an enormous decision.
“There will be thousands of people effected so it’s a very dark day in rugby league,” he said.
“For our sake, I hope there’s a resolution, I hope there’s an opportunity for us to keep marching on, whether that would be through a split competition or not, the game could be on its knees.”
Parker said it was “raw” especially after V’landys had said it would be “catastrophic” if the game closed down, with the NRL’s financial position in dire straits.
But fans might not have to wait long with V’landys believing the NRL will have an option in the next two weeks.
CLUBS MOST AT RISK
Speaking in the press conference, V’landys reiterated the horrible financial condition the NRL found itself in.
He admitted the NRL’s war chest has $70-80 million in it but should have more than $450 million which leaves the competition on the brink.
Plenty of tough calls coming up.Source:AAP
“It’s catastrophic, I don’t think we’ve every come across a financial crisis like this,” V’landys said in the press conference.
“This is a financial crisis, you can’t understate it, it’s probably the biggest financial crisis the game will ever face in its history, but cooperatively and united, we will deal with it and hopefully we’ll come out the other end.”
The Daily Telegraph’s Phil Rothfield agreed with Paul Kent on NRL 360 that the game will never look the same again with it unlikely to see a 16 team competition in the future.
Earlier, The Australian’s Brent Read said Manly and Cronulla would be facing tough futures with the game closed down but some believed it would cut right to the bone.
I suspect there will only be about 8 #NRL teams remaining when the NRL returns in 2021. I'm hoping dearly that my beloved @NRLKnights are amongst them.
Now is the time to buy a piece of merch from your team. Might help keep them alive or become a bona fide collector's item.
Rothfield said Cronulla had $17 million in the bank, own its home ground and a golf course.
Ben Ikin said: “The game can’t die, because 17 players on both sides of the field, who for the most part turn up and do it for free as coaches and players.”
Rothfield said the league “need to get in there with a chainsaw” as the league have 140 full-time staff, more than the English Premier League, who have 120 full-time staff.
WORLD REACTS TO NRL ‘CRISIS’
Dylan Brown may well have scored the NRL’s last try.Source:AAP
Manly Sea Eagles player Joel Thompson was one of the first players to react to the news.
But the news was met with shock and sadness from players as the gravity of the world’s problem finally hit the sport.
The NRL season suspended..That hurts but like most tough times in life, we will come through it.
I don’t really know what to say……
WE WILL BE BACK!!! Stay safe rugby league community. 💙 to you all! #NRL
Shattered it’s come to this. Tough times, not only for rugby league but for everyone. We’re all in this fight together and we’ll get through it – look after one another and stay healthy
The NRL was widely panned for trying to continue the league despite the AFL closing down.
But as the NRL finally made the decision many were asking for after exhausting all options, there were plenty of opinions about the announcement.
#Breaking. Channel Nine news now reporting it looks like sanity will prevail and they ARE going to shut it down.
Mr Morrison, you must step in and shut down the NRL https://t.co/DEXhIPY8vc via @smh
Shocking news – but it had to be done for the safety of players, staff and their families. Hope they can resume the competition soon. @NRL #COVIDー19 pic.twitter.com/DiJZSNruyh
#NRL season suspended.
Sensible move and sends a clear message to many that this thing is bigger than business and sport – and needs to be taken seriously.#coronavirus #coronavirusaustralia
NRL suspended. Financial consequences of that immense. Uncertain future for rugby league.
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