Politicians love being members of clubs and our prime minister is no exception.
He most recently joined the so-called first movers club, a group of countries including Denmark, Greece, New Zealand, Israel and Singapore.
The leaders got together by phone, presumably to give each other a metaphorical pat on the back because they’d managed to get on top of the coronavirus in their respective countries and were now looking to ease restrictions.
Soon after this gratuitous backslapping, the PM produced a document that has been dubbed the roadmap out of the virus crisis. It outlines three stages of recovery, with the final stage including interstate travel and increased numbers of people allowed at gatherings.
What isn’t spelled out, though, are the subsequent stages that allow fans to go and watch football games. Clearly it won’t be possible to do this when the NRL season re-commences on May 28, but it would be nice to know when the PM and his medical experts think it will be safe to allow people in to watch their teams play.
To date, the state and federal leaders have had a relatively easy time of it, in terms of decision-making. It’s not hard to listen to medical experts and act on their advice to make closures across the board.
The tricky bit now starts: deciding what can open, and how many people can gather. Assuming all goes well and stage-three restrictions are lifted successfully, there should be little reason why fans can’t watch live football.
Yes, there will need to be precautions, screening and safe distancing. That would likely mean crowd sizes would be reduced, but with the exception of Broncos home games, that’s probably not an issue, at least for regular rounds.
Peter V’landys and the NRL have done a mighty job getting the season back to the point where it can start again, but they still have more to do. The high point of any season is the finals and more so than ever this year, it would be great to get plenty of people into the games.
It would be difficult to imagine a grand final played in an empty stadium. It would be equally hard to imagine State of Origin played in front of nothing but empty seats.
V’landys must surely have a plan so that a few minor round games can be used as test cases to see what happens if people are allowed to attend.
Clearly it would be good to know how long it will take to get in with extra screening measures and whether people will still practice safe distancing once in the ground. If all goes well, that should mean people could be allowed into the finals.
The NRL has been at the forefront of getting professional sports back on track in Australia and this is simply one more time where it has to take the lead.
The lessons gained by allowing fans into games would translate to the AFL in particular, but also the cricket, assuming their season goes ahead as planned.
The relevant state and federal leaders have shown courage by allowing the NRL to start again. Hopefully that courage doesn’t desert them when it comes to allowing live audiences.