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The Roar



The NRL needs to continue

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Roar Guru
21st March, 2020

Life is full of moments when time seemingly stands still.

For me, Princess Diana’s death, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the 2004 tsunami and, more happily, Cathy Freeman’s triumph in Sydney and the Sharks’ maiden premiership stand out. I may not be able to remember what I did last month, but I remember exactly where I was when those events were reported.

We are still not near its peak, but the coronavirus pandemic will be remembered as one of those moments. Of course, the difference this time is that normal life has ceased.

After 9/11, there was a distinctly uneasy feeling around but, otherwise, life continued pretty much as normal. You could still do a weekly shop without fear of missing out, go to the movies or attend a sporting fixture.

You can’t do that now, and that is exactly why the NRL must continue behind closed doors as long as it can. We need to have that sense of normality, the comfort that some things continue on regardless.

I’ve heard the arguments against continuing. I’m desperately sorry, and equally grateful, for the New Zealand Warriors bunkering down in Australia, away from family and friends.

I also recognise the impact of even one player testing positive for COVID-19 and applaud the steps the NRL are taking to minimise that likelihood. From what I’m seeing, they are a whole lot safer than the thousands of people at Bondi Beach. They are exactly the reason the virus will spread, not the NRL.

I don’t accept the argument that the NRL are being selfish and too focussed on finances. Like many, I’m impacted by the fact that organised sport has effectively stopped for the average Australian.

However, I don’t have the safeguards around me like the NRL players now do. Not many people would be upset if my tennis team was no more. If any of the NRL teams didn’t survive this, it would be a different story.

NZ Warriors

(Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

And, so far, so good. Whilst it’s different watching the NRL on TV without any crowd noise, the talk on-field is something unique to viewers. The quality of games has also been high.

Take the Broncos versus Rabbits game on Friday night. Several lead changes, momentum shifts and individual brilliance by Kotoni Staggs. The product is still good.

TV ratings are also high, across both the NRL and AFL. However, the NRL is perhaps made for TV more than AFL. There seems more noise south of the border about the downward shift in the quality of the football without fans. I haven’t seen the same issue with the NRL, bearing in mind it is still early in the season.

The next few months are going to be uncertain times. If parts of Australia do go into lockdown, it’s entirely possible that the NRL will have to pause. However, for as long as it possibly can, the game should go on.