Second rugby player tests positive as new competition put on hold

A second member of the Sydney University first grade rugby team tested positive for coronavirus as Rugby Australia confirmed it was putting on hold its plans for a new Australian professional competition.

Two sources have told The Sydney Morning Herald that a second player was in quarantine after contracting coronavirus.

A second Sydney University first grade player has contracted COVID-19. Credit:Karen Watson

The diagnosis came after the man’s teammate was diagnosed with the virus around the time Sydney University defeated the University of Queensland in the Australian Club Championships on March 15.

He fell ill the morning after the match but did not inform the club until the following Wednesday, at which point Sydney University Football Club informed NSW Health and issued a member-wide newsletter.

Sources said the second player's family, his girlfriend and her family were all undergoing testing.

Sydney University Football Club referred the Herald to NSW Health and Rugby Australia.

Last week's news prompted Rugby Australia’s chief medical officer to speak with doctors from both state unions and also with NSW Health.

As a result, all players from both teams were told to self-quarantine until midnight on March 28, as were those who attended a function afterwards and may have been in contact with the man.

Speaking last week, NSW chief medical officer Dr Kerry Chant said: "All people who attended this event are considered close contacts of a confirmed case and we ask that any attendees immediately self-isolate themselves for 14 days, so that will be until midnight of Saturday 28 March. Should anyone develop symptoms, please contact the public health units on the appropriate numbers."

Meanwhile, Australia's four Super Rugby sides were told to stop training for two weeks as RA put on hold its plans to start a domestic professional competition next month.

The remodelled five-team competition, which included the Western Force, was in the final stages of approvals, but has been suspended until at least May 1.

RA said the federal and state governments' rapidly escalating shutdown measures had prompted the call, while the AFL’s decision to suspend its season on Sunday must also have been factored in.

All other club and community rugby around Australia has been suspended until May as well.

"Rugby Australia and the Super Rugby teams have made the decision today to suspend the start of the revised competition on the latest guidance from the various government and health authorities and our Chief Medical Officer," RA chief executive Raelene Castle said.

"Our priority is the health and welfare of our athletes and our wider rugby community as we continue to adapt to an unprecedented and constantly evolving situation for our game and society.

"The decision to postpone the restart of the competition until May 1 is in line with the suspension of all community rugby in Australia and will give us the opportunity to review our position across the whole rugby landscape in a month’s time.

"Our message to the entire rugby community today is to follow the advice of the government and health authorities. We must do whatever it takes to stop the spread of the virus. The spirit of the rugby community is a powerful force, and the only way out of this crisis is to work together and look out for each other.

"While this is having an unprecedented impact on our sport and many other sports, this is bigger than sport and that is why we will continue to put the health and welfare of our people above anything else."

The Super Rugby sides will begin modified training programs at the end of the two-week period, and RA will review the situation in mid-April.

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