‘Laughable’: NRL never formally enquired about NRLW bubble, QLD Health say

The Queensland government is refusing to take the blame for the postponement of the 2021 NRLW season, revealing its health department did not rule out the possibility of a bubble in the Sunshine State to allow the women’s competition to go ahead.

Last week, the NRL announced this year’s NRLW season would be postponed until 2022, citing overwhelming logistical problems and border complexities resulting from the COVID-19 situation in Sydney.

“We explored all avenues, but it is simply not possible,” chief executive Andrew Abdo said in a statement. “When the men’s competition was relocated to Queensland there were 77 cases in NSW on that day, there’s now consistently over 1000 cases a day and restrictions around border closures are much tighter than they were in the middle of the year.”

However, Queensland Health told the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age no application for the NRLW had been presented to the government.

“We haven’t received an application and therefore haven’t denied an application,” a spokeswoman for Queensland Health said. “If the NRL wishes to submit a plan, they should do that and it will be assessed like all other sporting plans.”

In response to the statement made by Queensland Health, Abdo acknowledged no application had been made by the NRL but said the governing body was in daily discussions with the government.

Maroons captain Ali Brigginshaw asked to see proof the proposal for an NRLW bubble had been rejected by the Queensland government, but it was never tabled.Credit:Getty

“I’m not going to talk about the conversations we have with the government because they are really sensitive but I’m definitely not going to paint a narrative around this was someone else’s decision or someone else’s fault,” he said.

“This was our decision and it was based on a range of factors. But in New South Wales the situation has gotten worse, not better.”

The NRL insists a survey in July revealed almost 30 per cent of NRLW players said they would not be willing to enter a bubble. That figure has been the subject of debate by multiple NRLW players in recent days.

Abdo said the survey indicated the NRL would not have enough players to proceed with a six-team competition. He also said no consideration was given to the possibility of moving back to a four-team competition, as the NRL was committed to expanding the season.

Maroons captain and 2020 Dally M female player of the year Ali Brigginshaw told SEN on Friday she had been told the Queensland government had rejected the NRL’s application to establish a bubble.

“I actually asked the question … and the answer I got was, ’Well it’s the government’s decision,” she told SEN’s Call Time with Katie Brown. ”We keep asking why. We are [being asked] to believe you in saying that [the NRL] has tried every avenue, but have you?”

Abdo said further difficulties had arisen due to the fact 35 NRLW players lived in Sydney’s LGAs of concern.

“It’s easy for Ali Brigginshaw to say, sitting in Queensland with the situation in Queensland, she’s employed by the Broncos,” he said.

“But you also you have to bear in mind that there are 144 players, some of them live in those LGAs and some of them have jobs, and some of them have other commitments.”

NSW captain Kezie Apps said a perceived lack of effort by the NRL in pushing for the establishment of a bubble made the female players feel less valued than the men.

“For them to do everything in their power to relocate the men – that’s fine, it’s the main income source for them from a business point of view – but for us, I felt like the NRL didn’t show us the same level of respect,” she said.

Roosters star and RLPA board member Hannah Southwell labelled the situation “laughable”.

“They need to value us and I don’t think they do at the moment,” Southwell said. “We want the public to understand where we’re coming from in the last three months. We’ve been treated like children and we’re a second thought. It’s ridiculous.”

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