The NRL will continue despite increased travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic, with New Zealand Warriors to remain in Australia.
On Sunday, the league confirmed round two will proceed next week but behind closed doors as the COVID-19 outbreak disrupts sport across the globe.
The Warriors – who lost their season opener away to Newcastle Knights on Saturday – will stay in Australia after New Zealand imposed strict travel conditions, which will be introduced at midnight on Sunday (local time) – a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period for those entering the country.
While the NRL will forge ahead with the season, it conceded cancelling the competition remains a possibility if the Australian government increases sanctions.
Todd Greenberg & Peter V’landys have addressed the media in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic to announce the 2020 Telstra Premiership will continue, despite increased travel restrictions.https://t.co/Sm5jyyLum0
— NRL (@NRL) March 14, 2020
“It’s one of the toughest challenges for us to stay viable in the history of the game,” Australian Rugby League (ARL) Commission chairman Peter V’landys said. “This can change by the hour. All decisions we will make will have the safety and health of our players as paramount.
“We are going to review all options including isolating players or suspending the season. We’ve commissioned a pandemic expert and we are going to act on their advice. The paramount consideration is the players’ safety.”
V’landys, who urged the federal government to offer financial support to the NRL, added: “At this stage we will continue to round two and give us the chance to work with our biosecurity and pandemic staff. It could have catastrophic results on us.
“We want to have the best available, that’s why we’ve done this. If someone goes down we need to reassess. There’s never been more financial pressure on this game than ever. We have funds but those funds will run out quickly.”
— Vodafone Warriors (@NZWarriors) March 14, 2020
The Warriors will base themselves in Kingscliff on the NSW-Queensland border, playing their round-two match against Canberra Raiders on the Gold Coast, rather than in Auckland on Saturday as originally scheduled.
While the Warriors flew to the Gold Coast from Sydney on Sunday, Patrick Herbert and Peta Hiku returned home to be with their families.
“We had extensive meetings with [NRL CEO] Todd Greenberg, the Rugby League Players’ Association and our players and staff until late last night to consider all our options,” Warriors CEO Cameron George said.
“There is a lot of take into account, not least the impact on families back home as well as our members, fans, sponsors and other stakeholders.
“Ultimately we have reached a decision for the team to stay in Australia for the coming week. They’ll be based on the Gold Coast and will play Canberra next weekend, probably at Cbus Super Stadium.
“The landscape is changing so rapidly, though, and together with the NRL we’ll monitor the situation on a daily basis.”
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg added: “The Warriors deserve a lot of credit, for the greater good of the competition they understand their obligations. If that means bringing families across we’ll assess that.”