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Project Apollo grounded until next week

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16th April, 2020
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The NRL won’t have a revised season structure until at least next week after Friday’s Project Apollo committee meeting was postponed.

Wayne Pearce’s innovation committee had been due to convene on Friday, after days of talks between the NRL’s bosses and the game’s broadcasters.

However that has now been pushed back to early next week, as discussions with Nine and Foxtel to sort through the cost structure and logistics continue.

Once discussions with the broadcasters are finalised, Pearce’s committee will be tasked with quickly locking in a revamped schedule.

The NRL is also expected to pitch its plans to the NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro next week in what shapes as a crucial few days for the sport.

“The NRL have every right to pitch to government in relation to what the return of the NRL could be,” Barilaro said.

“Does it include the Warriors, the Queensland sides? We don’t know.

“Next week they’ll pitch to me their processes, protocols, their measures in relation to how they protect the community and those players.”

League officials are still confident they can work towards the planned May 28 restart.

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The biggest hurdle still appears to be the Warriors.

Talks were ongoing between the players’ union, NRL and the club on Thursday, with Australia’s borders remaining closed and an exemption required.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday played down the suggestion of a relaxed border arrangement between Australia and New Zealand, with new coronavirus cases dropping in both nations.

There was also some suggestion the Warriors could train while in the mandatory two-week quarantine period, although that too would require a government exemption.

It now appears certain they won’t travel to Australia this weekend as planned, given they want clearer details on the season structure before leaving New Zealand.

One option could include the Auckland-based club missing the first round back, and playing a catch-up game over a State of Origin weekend or at the end of the season.

Whatever the case is, the Warriors will have the same pre-season length as every other team by the time they play their first game.

How long or short that pre-season would be is being discussed by the workloads and balance committee, which includes players’ union boss Clint Newton, the NRL’s Graham Annesley and experienced club trainers.

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Beyond that, player safety still remains a key talking point for the union as they too push for the game’s return.

Questions must also be answered around what access players will have to surgery, doctors and their usual injury management.

There is also a desire for families to join players in any camp scenario, which will likely involve the Warriors and Queensland teams as well as potentially Melbourne.

Any changes to pay must also be discussed, dependent on what is agreed to between Nine, Foxtel and the league.

© AAP