The Australian Rugby League Commission has announced it plans to restart the NRL competition on May 28 and is weighing up the merits of two potential season structures.
Following landmark meetings with the NRL’s innovation committee on Thursday, the ARLC has approved plans to get the competition up and running almost 10 weeks after it was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
State of Origin remaining in a standard three-game format and playing one grand final in Sydney was also endorsed by the ARLC, and there is a preference towards completing the remaining rounds of a regular NRL season rather than playing in conferences.
The announcement comes hours after free-to-air broadcast partners Channel Nine released a scathing statement accusing the NRL of mismanaging funds, and leaving them with an unfulfilled contract.
“Our goal is to give as much certainty as we can in uncertain times. There is clear evidence the curve is flattening,” said ARLC chairman Peter V’landys.
“The NSW Government has done a great job in reducing the infection rate from 22.27 per cent when we suspended the competition to 1.43 per cent today.
“The situation is changing dramatically and we need to get moving.
“It is in the best interests of our clubs, our players, our stakeholders and importantly our fans that the competition resumes as quickly and as safely as possible.
“We have said right from the start that what we say today may need to change tomorrow.
“We will be flexible, and if the trend changes or if government restrictions change then so will we. The health and safety of our players and the general public remains the absolute priority.”
ARL commissioner Wayne Pearce said the changing landscape around government regulations has prevented the committee from confirming a new season structure.
Pearce said the commission is considering two potential season structures, and is moving away from the idea of housing players in isolation ‘bubbles’ in Sydney due to the reduced infection rate in Australia.
“What we’re leaning towards is a competition structure that looks more aligned with what we’re currently got,” he said.
“We’ve currently got support from the NSW Government in terms of if we adhere to public health guidelines and we make sure that our players follow those guidelines, we are able to train and play.
“Provided that we have strict measures around testing of players, and put some other protocols in place that allow us to minimise the risk of infection within the playing group and community.”
Pearce said current border restrictions mean the Warriors would be required to quarantine for 14 days before they were able to train and join the 16-team competition.
“Whether that changes or not is a matter of government policy so we can’t influence that,” he said.
“But things are changing very rapidly.”